Q. Why in Saudi Arabia, there is only one salaat and not four salaat for each imam’s muqqalid? Are they wahabi in Saudi? Are their ulama followers of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab? Why don’t they do taqleed? Are they right? If wrong why? And what were the teachings of ibn Abdul Wahab?
A. With respect to the performance of Salaah, there is no requirement to have it performed four times – for each Imam’s Muqallid. Salaah is performed by any qualified Imam/Alim and those behind him (Muqtadis) will perform it in a manner they wish, in accordance to one of the four Imams who have explained the Salaah of the Prophet (SA) from authentic ahadith. Those who wish to say Ameen aloud may do so, and those who wish to say it silently may do so. Similarly, those who wish to follow Imam Shafi and ‘raise their hands’ before and after ruku can do so, and those who wish to refrain from this constant raising of the hands, which is in accordance to the Mazhab of Imam Abu Hanifa, can do so. The Imam performing Salaah in a certain manner (by following a particular Imam of Fiqh) does not make it compulsory upon the followers to follow his method. So in this issue, there is ease and relaxation, and hence, it is not required that four of the same salaah be performed to facilitate the four mazhabs.
In Saudi Arabia, there have been scholars in the past and present that have been influenced by the teachings of Abdul Wahab. At present, while, they may adhere to his explaination / interpretations on many topics/subjects in Islam, there are many who follow the Mazhab of Imam Ahmad bin Hambal. Some of them do taqleed and some of their Ulamah believe that it is not essential to follow an Imam of Fiqh. Howbeit, all these scholars have great respect for the Imams of Fiqh and in many laws, they accept and apply their rulings. They may not adhere strictly to one particular Mazhab, but they accept all as being upon the truth and may choose from their opinions what seems to be more correct according to them. The reliable and great scholars of Saudi Arabia do not condemn the following of a mazhab, and they do not condemn the followers. It is only some of the modern day inexperienced and immature graduates who may criticize and condemn the Imams of Fiqh. They, however are a few, and have been rebuked by the senior scholars of Saudi Arabia for their ignorant and arrogant behaviour.
Those who go from different countries to study in Saudi Arabia do not learn this sort of arrogant behaviour ‘of condemning the mazhabs’ from the Saudi Scholars. Instead, they learn it form other similar youths coming from other countries.
As I mentioned before, those who do not do taqleed of the Imams of Fiqh do not see it as being essential. However, in reality they do taqleed of others. You will see in their writings that they follow the opinions of other scholars who they consider worthy of being followed. So in reality, no one can escape the act of following another person, which in reality is Taqleed. Those who condemn Taqleed are simply ignorant, for certainly they also follow the opinions and fatawas of scholars (past and Present).
As for ‘being right’ or ‘wrong’ in their approach, this is for Allah to judge. From our angle, we see that there is absolutely no scholar living on the face of the earth today, except that he must put his trust and reliance on the scholars of the early generations of Islam. Islam come to us through the efforts and sacrifices of the Sahabahs, Tabieen, At ba’ut Tabieen and those after them. Knowledge, understanding, and the correct explainations/interpretations of the sciences of Islam were transmitted from the Sahabahs to the Tabieen, and then to the At ba’ut Tabieen. These times were the most glorious in the history of Islam, and these generations were the best of the Muslim Ummah as mentioned by the Prophet (SA) himself. It is unanimously accepted by all scholars of the latter times that no one coming after (these three glorious generations) could match the knowledge, wisdom, understanding of Islam and the piety and righteousness of those of ‘the first three eras. Every one coming in the latter period had no choice except to drink from the fountain of knowledge and understanding given by the three earliest generations of Muslims.
During the ending period of the Tabieen and the period of the At ba’ut Tabieen, great scholars in the sciences of Islam appeared in the main cities of Islam. These scholars were from among those who learnt directly from the students and children of the sahabahs and excelled in their learning ability. Great Muffasirs, Muhadiths and Fuqaha emerged, and the general body of the Muslim Ummah accepted them to be from among the greatest scholars of their times. In this manner, the great scholars of Fiqh became well known for their outstanding ability in the field of understanding the Quran and Sunnah properly, and possessing an outstanding and superb ability of Ijtihad. These scholars became prominent and widely accepted as the masters and experts in all jurisprudential matters. The scholars, as well as laymen flocked to them from all directions so that their questions, queries, problems and issues can be answered by an authority in the Islamic sciences. These great stars came to be known as the four great Imams of Fiqh, and though there were other great Fuqaha (legists) living at their times, the general Ummah relied upon these four for their great and onstanding ability in the knowledge and understanding of Islam. The acceptance given to the Mazhab of these four Imams was so overwhelming that when the Shites and Khawarij adopted their own Fiqh, the scholars of the early centuries of Islam decreed that the Fiqh of the four mazhabs is indeed a representation of the Fiqh of the Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah.
From the earliest centuries of its development, great scholars throughout the ages adhered and adopted a Mazhab in the field of Fiqh. This became prevalent and was widely accepted by great Islamic rulers, great Qazis, the traditionists, the commentators of the Quran, the jurists, the scholars and the laymen. No one during the early centuries saw the Mazhab to be contrary and opposing to ‘following the Quran and Sunnah’. Instead, the four Imams were simply expounders and interpreters of the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah, and they were always viewed in this manner until today. The only reason why a Muqallid (follower) follows an Imam is because of the conviction that the Mujtahid has deep knowledge and understanding of the Quran and Sunnah (and the ability to do Ijtihad) which he (the Muqallid does not possess). On account of this, the Mujtahid Imam of Fiqh is able to understand the Quran and the Sunnah, and in this regard, the follower has relied upon the Imam’s opinion. Thus, there are no grounds to accuse those who practice Taqleed of following the Imams of Fiqh rather than the Quran and Sunnah. Instead, Taqleed facilitates the following of the Quran and Sunnah.
In Taqleed, one follows the opinions, verdicts and explainations of a scholar who has firm knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah, and the ability to extrapolate the rules from the Quran and Sunnah. That which is said by the scholar is backed up by solid evidences from the Quran and Sunnah, and is given as that which is the correct explaination and interpretation of these sources. Following the scholar is one which is essential and has been done by every person on the face of the earth. In fact, the Holy Quran clearly tells us to follow the scholars when it states, ‘O you who believe, obey Allah, obey the Messenger and those of authority amongst you’. (An Nisa: 59)
In the above verse, ‘those of authority’ has been explained by some as Muslim rulers. However, the great scholars like Abdullah bin Abbas, Mujahid, Ata bin Abi Rabah, Ata Ibn Saib, Hasan Basri, Abul Aliyah and many others have stated that it refers to the ‘Fuqaha’ (the jurists).
This verse as well as many others, including the great amount of traditions clearly show that listening to the scholars, accepting their opinions and Fatawas, as well as following them in their statements are all permissible, acceptable and even essential. This is so, since they have (all) gained the proper knowledge of the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet (SA), along with great expertise in the other sciences which help them to form the correct opinion and verdicts regarding new occurrences that did not take place during the time of the Prophet (SA) and/or the Sahabahs.
As for the teachings of Shaikh Abdul Wahab, we do not know much of this. The little we know about him is that he was a follower of the Hanbali Mazhab. Many scholars have stated that his views and opinions on many issues were based on harshness and severity. Because of this, he used the words ‘Shirk’ and ‘Bidah” for actions/practices that were free from these.
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan