“This is the speech of an ignorant person and he is walking upon the path of the people of bid’ah, and he knows nothing about the path of the scholars; in fact he has not even read the books of the scholars. When it comes to ijmā’ of the ṣaḥābah (رضي الله عنهم), there is nothing that says that in order to understand an āyah or ḥadīth in any way, that all of the ṣaḥābah or most of the ṣaḥābah have to had voiced their opinion of their understanding of it and that if they didn’t, then we are allowed to make up our own understanding.”
سؤال وجواب – عربي – ١٠:٠٥ دقائق
Question and Answer – English [14:47]
Is it not possible to say that a particular tafsīr of an āyah, or the meaning of a ḥadīth, is the understanding of the Salaf unless there is ijmā’ (consensus) stating such, or that conveying some sort of transmission that the majority of them were upon that?
This is the speech of an ignorant person and he is walking upon the path of the people of bid’ah, and he knows nothing about the path of the scholars; in fact he has not even read the books of the scholars. When it comes to ijmā’ of the ṣaḥābah (رضي الله عنهم), there is nothing that says that in order to understand an āyah or ḥadīth in any way, that all of the ṣaḥābah or most of the ṣaḥābah have to had voiced their opinion of their understanding of it and that if they didn’t, then we are allowed to make up our own understanding.
Who says this? Has anyone from the people of knowledge ever made such a claim? It is as if the people who make such statements are saying, as the people of bid’ah say, “the ṣaḥābah are men and we are men, they have their intellects and we have our intellects, they can understand the Qur’ān how they want to and we understand the Qur’ān how we want to because our intellects are just as sound as theirs”. This is at the origin of bid’ah, and every person of bid’ah boils down into saying something like this. No scholar from the people of the Sunnah has ever made such a claim, that it has to be from the ijmā’ of the ṣaḥābah in order for us to understand an ayah or ḥadīth in a certain way.
In fact, if we have the ijmā’ of the scholars in our day and time, if all of them or most of them agree upon a certain issue, we know it’s the truth, why? Because one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Ummah of Muḥammad ﷺ is that they don’t mutually agree upon falsehood. So, when it comes to there being an ijmā’, either from the scholars or from the Salaf, or from the scholars in our day and time, then they are equally valid.
Also, if we do have a statement from one of the ṣaḥābah (رضي الله عنهم) and we do not know if any other ṣaḥābi has differed from him, then what approach are we supposed to take? There is no doubt that we accept the statements and understanding of one of the ṣaḥābah if he has voiced an opinion, even if we do not know if any of the other ṣaḥābah has voiced a different opinion, and this is proof in of itself of only one ṣaḥābi.
If for example Abū Bakr (رضي الله عنه) voiced an opinion about a certain matter and we do not know if any other ṣaḥābah differed from him, then is it logical or correct for you to come and say that that was his own understanding but I have my own understanding? This is falsehood! There is no doubt about that! If Abū Bakr voiced an opinion about something and no other ṣaḥābah differed from him, then no doubt we must take what Abū Bakr has said. We don’t say we have our own understanding. When people say anything else, they are building a foundation of bid’ah.
When an issue like this was presented to Imām al-Shāfiʿī (رحمه الله), as reported by Imām al-Bayhaqī in his book, Imām al-Shāfiʿī said, “If I don’t find anything in the Book of Allāh or the Sunnah of His Prophet or the ijmā of the ṣaḥābah, then I take the statements of the ṣaḥābah, especially if in the statements of the ṣaḥābah, there is no other statement of a different ṣaḥābi to contradict him. If I find one statement of a ṣaḥābi, then that is sufficient if there is no other ṣaḥābi to differ with him. These ṣaḥābah were the most pious people from this ummah and they were the ones to which the Qur’ān was sent down in their presence. They were the ones who understood it best, so if they voiced their opinions about it, they have more knowledge and they have more right of the understanding of Book of Allāh and the Sunnah of His Prophet ﷺ.”
The Messenger ﷺ said about them, “the best of people is my generation, then the ones that come after them and then the ones that come after them”. And Ibn Mas’ud (رضي الله عنه) said, “certainly Allāh has looked at the hearts of His creation and found the purest of hearts out of all of them was Muḥammad ﷺ, then He looked at the hearts of the rest of His servants and found the most purest of hearts were the hearts of the ṣaḥābah, and so He made them the ministers of the Prophet ﷺ.”
So, the ṣaḥābah were the most pious of people, their hearts were the most purest of hearts and their statements were the most correct of statements. When they heard anyone differing with the Sunnah, they were most fierce in rebuking.
There was an incident that occurred between Ibn ‘Umar and his son, as it was narrated from Ibn ‘Umar that Allāh’s Messenger ﷺ said, “Do not prevent the female servants of Allāh from praying in the Mosque.” So the son of Ibn ‘Umar said, “We will surely prevent them!” So Ibn ‘Umar became very angry and said to his son, “I narrate to you from Allāh’s Messenger ﷺ and you say, ‘We will surely prevent them?!’” (Muslim 135, 442; Ahmad 2/76)
How is it possible that you take a text from the Prophet ﷺ and you are so confident of your own understanding, that you’re ready to throw out the window the understanding of the ṣaḥābah. It is not necessary for the ṣaḥābah (رضي الله عنهم) to have an ijmā’ on an issue in order for you to accept it. If one of them has a fawtá or an issue and there is no other ṣaḥābi with a differing fawtá, then we have to take it.
Ibn ‘Abbās (رضي الله عنهم) had an understanding of an āyah from the Qur’ān, “Whoever does not judge by The Book of Allāh then those are the disbelievers”. Ibn ‘Abbās said, “this is not the disbelief you are familiar with; if anyone judges other than by The Book of Allāh it doesn’t make him a kafir which will take him out of the fold of Islām in that he is going to hellfire forever. It is a type of kufur which is less, meaning, it is not the kufur that removes you from paradise and puts you in the hellfire eternally. Yes it’s a sin, but not that type of kufur.”
When Ibn ‘Abbās (رضي الله عنهم) voiced this opinion, did any of the ṣaḥābah differ with him? He is the only one who voiced this opinion. It is not known that any of the ṣaḥābah differed with him. So, it is not for anyone to come and take their own understanding and say he is only one and I have my own understanding. Anyone who says I have my own understanding, this is falsehood.
The Prophet ﷺ said, “Take as an example after me Abū Bakr and ‘Umar”, and he also said in another ḥadīth, “If the people obey Abū Bakr and ‘Umar they would be rightly guided”. Think about that. If they don’t obey Abū Bakr and ‘Umar what are they? They are misguided.
The ṣaḥābah (رضي الله عنهم) used to look at Abū Bakr and ‘Umar and they would take them as an example. Once Abū Dardā’ (رضي الله عنه) heard ‘Umar speaking about a man and said, “He’s a great man”, so Abū Dardā’ went to that man and said, “Make ‘Istighfār for me (ask Allāh to forgive me)”. The man asked why. Abū Dardā’ said, “I heard ‘Umar say what a great person he is”. This person was not a ṣaḥābi, he had not been in the presence of the Messenger ﷺ so the man replied, “You are more deserving of making ‘Istighfār for me, you are a ṣaḥābi.” Abū Dardā’ said, “But I heard ‘Umar say what a great person you are.”
The ṣaḥābah used to look at ‘Umar and take him as an example and they would accept his understanding of a ḥadīth. They didn’t say there has to be an ijmā’. It is obligatory for us to accept the ṣaḥābah’s opinions.
‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) sent ʿAmmār ibn Yāsir and Abdullāh ibn Mas’ud (رضي الله عنهم) to Kufah, and he told the people of Kufah to follow them both. Did he say to the people to wait and see if what these two ṣaḥābah says, agrees with the rest of the ṣaḥābah and that there has to be ijmā? No! He said these are two, so follow them!
How we going to come after now and say we don’t have to follow the statement of one ṣaḥābi or there has to be ijmā? That’s impossible.
Once ‘Umar saw Ṭalḥa ibn ‘Ubaydullāh (رضي الله عنهم) doing something that he disapproved of and he said to Ṭalḥa, “People look at you and take you as an role model so be careful with what you do”; and he was one person.
The ṣaḥābah were the most knowledgeable people about The Book of Allāh and they didn’t say or do anything without dalīl (evidence).
Imām al-Ḥākim in his al-Mustadrak reported that Ibn ‘Abbās (رضي الله عنهم) was asked, “What would you do if you don’t find the answer for something from The Book of Allāh?” He said, “I take the statements of Abū Bakr and ‘Umar”.
Once ‘Umar (رضي الله عنه) was asked, “What would you do if you don’t find knowledge about a particular ayah?” He said, “I take what Uthmān says.” There are number of athār of the tābi’īn to this affect.
Abū Hurairah (رضي الله عنه) said, “If something comes to you from so and so from the scholars then they are men and we are men, they have their opinions and we have our opinions, they know the book and we know the book , but if the opinion comes to you from the ṣaḥābah, then stop and take their opinions, they are ṣaḥābah, know your place.”