Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Neo-Traditional Salafism (NTS) as Neo-Ahl al hadith

This paper  examines the NTS thought with respect to the historical context behind the emergence of the pre-modern ahl al-hadith and ahl ar-ra’ymadhhab schools of thought.
I first turn my attention to the relationship between NTSm and the pre-modern ahl al-hadith school of thought. NTS scholars consider themselves to be the inheritors of the pre-modern ahl al-hadith because of their view that this school of thought is the only sect whose manhaj has remained true to the Qur’an and Sunna. For example, Al-Atharee in his book “Clarification That The Ahlul-Hadeeth Are The Saved Sect and Victorious Group”, is of the view that the “truth is found in the creed of the Ahlul-Hadith”.[i] He praises the efforts of individuals who made long journeys in search of even only one narration  collecting and authenticating hadith  and criticizes  the adherents of ahl ar-ra’yfor their reliance on opinion instead of hadith . In this context he asserts the following:
Then he [individual collecting hadith] would not cease to be in pursuit of narrations and in the quest for it until they understood its authentic from its inauthentic; and its abrogating from its abrogated, and they knew who opposed it in exchange for opinion from the Scholars of fiqh.[ii] [sic]
Another indication that the NTS scholars associate themselves with the pre-modern ahl al-hadith school of thought and oppose the ahl ar-ra’y is Al-Atharee’s assertion that the Ahl al-hadith of today “take the Religion from the Book [The Qur’an] and the Sunna” thereby inherit harmony and unity whereas people of “innovations and desires” took “the Religion from the intellects and opinions” and as a result have inherited separation and differing (ikhtilaf).[iii] Here Al-Atharee clearly refers, to the prominent use of reason (’aql) and reason –based opinion (ra’y) that featured in the ahl ar-ra’y Qur’an –Sunna manhaj.
Similarly, the Syrian scholar Jameel Zaynoo (1930-) who for many years taught  in Dar-ul-Hadith al-Khairiyah, in Mecca , in his book The Methodology of the Saved Sect (Minhaj al-Firqat un-Najiyah) forms the view that the pre-modern ahl al-hadith are the Saved Sect. He basis his argument in form of a hadith found in the early classical hadith collection by Muslim in which the Prophet of Islam is reported to have said that a group from his Ummah would not cease to manifest upon the truth. Zaynoo identifies the pre-modern ahl al-hadith as being that group.[iv] 
NTS scholars also define themselves in relation to the early schisms that beset the nascent Muslim community and in this context clearly identify themselves with the pre-modern ahl –hadith group. Discussing the question who the ahl al-hadith are Al-Atharee writes:
So they are the ones who lie waiting to ambush every sect that opposes the Islamic manhaj ,such as the  Jahmiyyah, the Mu’tazilah, the Khawaarij, the Rawaafid, The Murji’ah, the Qadariiyyah and everyone else who strays from Allah and follows his desires ,in every time and place.[v]
Based on the above it can be concluded that the NTS scholars are, in fact, the contemporary version of the pre-modern ahl al-hadith, something that they themselves willingly and approvingly accept.
Apart from their identification with the pre-modern ahl al-hadith school of thought NTS scholars frequently ascribe to themselves the epithet ‘salafi’ and  consider that their manhaj  is in complete accordance with the concept of Salafism and with the practice of following in the footsteps of the as-salaf as-salih.[vi] For example, Bin Baz found in his booklet A Statement and Clarification of Al-Salafiyyah: Concepts an Principals asserts that the concept of Salafism is based upon some “general and intellectual principles “derived from the Qur’an, Sunna and Consensus (ijma’) which govern the method of acquiring din and understanding the Qur’an and Sunah according to the principles agreed upon by the righteous predecessors (salaf).”Furthermore, he considers those who abide by these principles as being on the way of Salafis and thus qualifying to belong to the mainstream Muslim community (Ahl-Sunna wa’l Jama’ah).[vii] Similarly, Al-Albanee in his book The Principals of the Salafee Methodology: An Islamic Manual For Reform  quotes the hadith  according to which the first generation of Muslims is the best one followed by the next and so on to argue the first three generations are/ were the as-salaf as-salih and that all Muslims must take them as an example. Those who do, argues Al-Albanee further, are the Saved Sect. [viii]
However, certain understandings of the concept of Salafism are specific to the NTS thought. One important aspect of this NTS conceptualization of Salafism for the purposes of this study, is the notion that Salafism is to be viewed primarily as manifesting itself in the belief that the historical legacy of the Prophet’s embodiment of the Qur’an, as it was understood by the most eminent authorities belonging to the first three generations of Muslims (i.e. the as-salaf as-salih as-salih) is normative, static and universalistic in nature (in terms of methodology/manhaj and the creed/’aqidah). One of the main proponents of NTS thought Al-Uthaymeen in the context of discussing the historical emergence behind the label “as-salaf as-salihiyyah”, why and when it arose and its importance as a method to “distinguish those upon the truth from those upon the falsehood” asserts the following:
As-salaf as-salihiyyah is distinguished from the various Islamic factions due to their ascription to what guarantees for them the correct and true Islam, which is adhered to what the Messenger and his Companions were upon, as occurs in the authentic Hadiths.[ix] [sic]
As-salaf as-salihfiyyah are not a group or a party but those who follow [the] Prophet’s and Companions’ aqidah, manhaj and 'ibadaah.[x]
Similarly, Al-Atharee links only the ahl al-hadith/ahl-athar[xi] group with those who have remained on the path of the salaf.[xii]
With their conflation of the concept of Sunna with that of sahih hadith as defiend by the early classical hadith scholars such as Bukhari( d.256 AH) and Muslim (d. 261)  and alongside their belief in exclusively following in the footsteps of as salaf, it is imperative for the NTS scholars to uphold the doctrine of the uprightness and cleansing of all of the Companions of the Prophet because of their crucial position in the chains of transmission in the hadith literature and thus in safeguarding a very important component of the knowledge of the Islamic tradition itself. Al-Madkhalee in his book “The Methodology of Ahlus-Sunna Wal Jamaa’ah : On Criticizing Individuals, Books and Groups”  forms exactly this view by asserting:
Ahlus-Sunna wal-Jamaa’ah are well aware of their [Companions’] position and status, and they guard it with the strictest form of guarding. And they forbid others from speaking vainly about what occurred of dispute between ‘Alee and Mu’aawiyyah and those who supported them from the rest of the Companions. Rather, they assert for them the reward that is given to the mujahids. And they ruled that all those who spoke about them- or even about one of them-were upon deviance, misguidance and heresy.[xiii]
He forms this view  on the basis of a single hadith found in Bukhari’s and Muslim’s hadith collections  in which Prophet is reported to have ordered people not to revile his Companions because of their  many virtues.[xiv]
Thus, NTS scholars embrace the concept of Salafism in two ways. Firstly, they do so in its particular NTS version by linking the manhaj of as-salaf as-salih to that of the pre-modern ahl al-hadith manhaj. Secondly, by subscribing to the doctrine of the righteousness and unblemishness of all of the Companions of the Prophet in relation to the early civil wars that beleaguered the nascent Muslim community.
Another  way of situating the contemporary NTS thought in relation to the debates on the relative status of sources of legal authority in the Islamic tradition  is by examining their ideas in relation to what constitutes legitimate knowledge (’ilm) and its sources. In the previous chapter we discussed the gradual shift in the concept of ‘ilm with the onset of what we referred to as the forces of traditionalisation of Islamic thought and the hadithification of Sunna which simultaneously epistemologically, methodologically and hermeneutically marginalized reason and reason based theories of interpretation in legal theory and promoted the view of founding and restricting the concept of ‘ilm to the Qur’an and hadith texts only. This concept of ‘ilm is evident in the thinking of Al-Uthaymeen in his book “A Reply to the Doubts of the Qutubiyyah Concerning Ascription to Sunna and Salafiyyah”. There he argues that the legitimate religious knowledge and its sources are restricted to the following:  the Qur’an, the pre-modern sciences governing the process of its explication and interpretation, the “authentic” hadith and the consensus (ijma') of Muslim scholars who have remained faithful to the Ahl /Ashab-ul-Hadith manhaj.[xv] Similarly, Al-Albanee restricts the definition of ‘ilm, apart from the Qur’an, only to hadith and calls for  the legal process to be purged of reason and  replaced entirely by hadith.[xvi]He refers to this jurisprudence as fiqh al-hadith.[xvii] Bin Baz in his booklet titled “The Obligation of Acting Upon the Sunna of the Messenger And The Unbelief of Those Who Reject It” echoes these views by quoting the words of Al-Bayhaqi, a famous Sunni hadith expert (d.384 A.H), who in turn quotes Sufyan Al-Thawri[xviii] as having said that “The whole of knowledge is knowledge of the narrations (i.e. hadith)”.[xix] According to this view the science of jurisprudence (fiqh) is synonymous with and therefore restricted to that of hadith.[xx] Al-Albanee forms this view when relying on the opinion of Ahmad bin Hanbal who is reported to have said that the opinions of the major madhhab scholars were simply opinions and that the evidence was only found in the narrations (athar/hadith).[xxi]
The view that ‘ilm is entirely textually based is also expressed by Al-Madkhalee who quotes several authorities from the past[xxii] stating:  “The religion of the prophet Muhammad is the narrations”; “the knowledge that is followed is that what contains   ‘qalaa haddathana’[xxiii] and everything else is whispers from the Shaytaan”; “the knowledge is what contains ‘qalaa haddathana’ and everything else is error and darkness.”[xxiv]
Likewise, Al-Madkhalee restricts ‘ilm to textual sources only. This is evident in  his argument against  the types of qiyas employed by   the “People of Rhetoric” (ahl-kalam) -whose fundamentals of Religion are said to be derived through the reasoning ( qiyas) of the intellect – and the fuqaha  belonging to the madhahib –who are said to be in large part also depending  on qiyas for religious legislation. Furthermore, he states that the contours of ‘ilm according to ahl al-hadith are confined to “the texts and the narrations of the Companions on all events in their basic and implied or deeper[xxv] meaning. [xxvi]
In their opposition to the ahl-kalam, the NTS scholars also consider ‘philosophy’ to be outside the scope of ‘ilm. For example, this view is represented by the assertion of Al-Albanee who in the context of discussing how one is to obtain certain knowledge   repeats on several occasions that “Islam is free from philosophy.”[xxvii]
NTS scholars, on the other hand, like the pre-modern ahl al-hadith, believe in the normative value of ahad hadith as sources of ‘ilm in all spheres of the Islamic tradition.[xxviii]  Thus, ahad hadith constitute ‘ilm upon which it is obligatory to act.[xxix] For example, the following excerpt from Zarabozo’s book “The Methodology of the Saved Sect “suggests this:
In the history of Islam, there developed this concept that matters of faith, as opposed to matters of law, have to be based on “definitive” evidence and some categories of hadith do not meet this requirement. This led to a rejection of certain authentic hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Ibn Abdul-Wahhaab opposed this approach, relying on the example set by the earliest scholars, and affirmed that all authenticated hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) must be believed in regardless of the topic.[xxx]
Here Zarabozo links the NTS manhaj clearly with that of Abd ul Wahhab to claim that ahad hadith are to be considered as having a normative value both in ‘aqidah and fiqh unlike, for example, in the Hanafi madhhab where they do not. The prominence of Abu ul Wahhab’s ideas and manhaj on the NTS will be demonstrated again below. Moreover, Al-Albanee considers that the distinction between ahad and mutawatir hadith as developed by usuliyyun ,i.e. the legal theorists, is artificial and not part of the salaf manhaj.[xxxi]
Another  vista  though which we can glean  the limits of ‘ilm according to the NTS school of thought is Al-Madkhalee’s discussion on the censuring of  books written by well known classical and contemporary  non-NTS Muslim Sufi and /or madhhab-based scholars. In this list of  books of “innovation and misguidance”  he includes ,among others, that of   Abu Talib al-Makki’s[xxxii] Qut al-Qulub (Nourishment of Hearts); the Ihya Ulum ud-Din of  of Abu Hamid Al-Ghazalli , Al-Fusus al-Hikam of Ibn ‘Arabi or  the books by the prominent contemporary  Muslim scholars Y. Qaradawi (Qatar) and that of  S. Al-Buti ( Syria).[xxxiii]
In summary, the NTS school of thought considers that the legitimate sources of ‘ilm are restricted exclusively to the Qur’an and hadith texts and that any use of reason can only be at best derivative.
I turn my attention now to discussing the NTS concept of Sunna. The concept of Sunna according to the NTS school of thought is that defined by the muhadithun (and some of the fuqaha) as those statements (qawl), actions (fi’l) and tacit approvals (taqrir) found in the authentic hadith collections. For example, Al-Albanee defines Sunna as a statement (qawl), action (fi’l) and tacit approval (taqrir) of the Prophet Muhammad that has reached us in form of authentic ahadith as defined by using the methods of classical ulum –ul hadith sciences.[xxxiv] Likewise, Bin Baz in his discussion on the meaning of the concept of Sunna writes that the Sunna is “whatever is authentically narrated from Allah’s Messenger.”[xxxv] M. Al-Azami’s, another prominent NTS scholar, definition of hadith is identical to that of Bin Baz and Al-Albanee.[xxxvi] We are also told that Sunna cannot be known through qiyas and that its concept consists only in “attesting the athar without asking how and why”.[xxxvii]
One important determinant of the concept of Sunna in NTS thought is their assertion that the ahl al-hadith are the sole and true followers of the as-salaf as-salih as-salih’s understanding of the scope and the nature of the concept of Sunna because of their  adherence to the “authentic” hadith. A contemporary NTS scholar Al-Madkhalee expresses this line of thought in a following manner:
 Then verily the one who studies the condition of the previous and subsequent ones [generations of Muslims] who are affiliated to the Ummah of Muhammad and studies their methodology, their beliefs and conceptions, doing so with justness, understanding and without bias, will find that the Ahl-ul-Hadith are the sternest of the people following, obeying and associating themselves to that which the Prophet Muhammad came to them with, by the way of the Book (i.e. the Qur’an) and the Sunna, in their beliefs (‘aqidah) , in their various acts of worship , in their dealings, in their da’wa, in their deriving of rulings and in their establishing of proofs.[xxxviii]

 Sahih hadith and the nature and the scope of the concept of Sunna are, thus, used interchangeably in NTS thought. This argument is represented by Al-Atharee with the following statement:

It will not be hidden from one who knows the Book that the usage of the term Ahlus-Sunna is not correct to be used for any of the current sects, except for the Ahlul-Hadeeth, because the hadeeth and the Sunna have come from the Prophet.[xxxix]

Al Atharee similarly argues that the ahl al-hadith are the defenders of Sunna as based on their manhaj.[xl] To argue for this type of understanding of the nature and the scope of the concept of Sunna, NTS scholars again rely on views of selected authorities from the past such as Ahmed Ibn Hanbal (d.241 A.H.) who is considered to be a major proponent of ahl al-hadith manhaj.[xli] Hanbal’s approach to the nature and the scope of the concept of Sunna is clearly demonstrated in his treatise Tabagatul-Hanabilah in which he states: “And the Sunna with us are the athar (narrations) of the Prophet” (wa –s-Sunnatu ‘indana atharu resulillah); “there is no analogical reasoning in the Sunna and examples or likenesses are not to be made for it ( wa laysa fi sunneti qiyas, wa la tudrebu laha al-amthal) and “nor is it [Sunna] grasped and comprehended by the intellects or the desires ( wa la tudrebe bi ‘uqaw’li wa la ‘l ahwa’).[xlii] Elsewhere he has reportedly said that an unreliable hadith was dearer to him than the use of reason.[xliii]
As part of their overall claim to be the sole custodians of the salaf-ul-salih’s understanding of the scope and the nature of the concept of Sunna, NTS also maintain that the way in which the nature and the scope of the Qur’an and Sunna indicants (‘adilla/dalil) were understood and interpreted from the time of the Prophet until now remained the same and is adhered to in its original form by the ahl al-hadith. This is the view of Al-Madkhalee, for example, who in the chapter of his book on “Who is the Ahl-Hadeeth”?, writes: “They[Ahl al-hadith] after all of the Companions  –and the head of them the rightly guided Caliphs –are the leaders of the taabi’een and at the head of them [sic].”[xliv] We are then told that the following authorities amongst the second generation of Muslims belonged to the ahl al-hadith movement:[xlv] Al- Musayyib (d. 90 A.H), M. ibn Hanafiyah (d.80 A.H.), Ibn Mas’ood (d.94 A.H.), Al-Basri (d. 110 A.H.), Umar ibn Abdul Aziz (d.101 A.H.)  and Al--Zuhri (d.125 A.H). Finally, among the followers of tabi’in (atbaa’at –tabi’in), or the third generation of Muslims being faithful to the ahl al-hadith methodology of interpretation of Qur’an and Sunna, the following people are included: Imam Malik (d.179 A.H.); Awza’i (d.157 A.H.) and Abu Hanifah (d.150 A.H). Al-Madhkhalee  also mentions  people belonging to  subsequent generations who, according to him, follow in the footsteps of previously stated authorities,  including scholars  such as Shafi’i (d. 204 A.H.) , Ibn Hanbal (d.241 A.H.) , Bukhari (d. 256 A.H.), Muslim (d. 261 A.H.) , Ibn Salah (d. 643 A.H) and Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 A.H.).[xlvi]

Furthermore, NTS scholars also identify themselves with the efforts of the modern ihya as-Sunna movements. For example, Zaynoo clearly states this by asserting that it is the task of his and those who belong to the Saved Sect identified as the ahl al-hadith to “revive the Sunna of the Messenger (saw) in their worship, their dealings and their lives…”[xlvii]

Another closely related concept in the discussion of the concept of Sunna in NTS literature is that of bid’ah. According to the NTS thought bida’ah is the antonym of Sunna, thus it is defined as heretical innovation in religion without any precedent found in the ‘authentic’ hadith literature. The madhhab approach to the concept of bid’ah  is more nuanced and conceptualises it in terms of  both good and bad bid’ah[xlviii] as based upon a report on the actions of the Caliph ‘Umar,[xlix] and the opinion of madhhab scholars such as Shafi’i who is said  to have divided bid’ah  into an approved ( mahmuda) or  blameworthy (madhmûma)  bid’ah. The former is said to be in conformity with the Sunna and the latter is not.[l] The madhhab –based definition also takes recourse to a major madhhab-based authority on hadith in Sunni Islam that of Ibn Hajar Asqalani whose five fold classification of bid’ah is defined as follows:

The root meaning of innovation is what is produced without precedent. It is applied in the law in opposition to the Sunna and is therefore blameworthy. Strictly speaking, if it is part of what is classified as commendable by the law then it is a good innovation (h.asana), while if it is part of what is classified as blameworthy by the law then it is blameworthy (mustaqbaha), otherwise it falls in the category of what is permitted indifferently (mubâh). It can be divided into the known five categories.[li]

NTS scholars interpret away the report on the actions of the Caliph ‘Umar as being “relative and subjective not original or absolute”. I might add that this is the only insistence in the NTS literature that I have consulted in which such a methodological/ hermeneutical distinction between that specific and general or absolute and contingent was made in relation to any issue. Instead, they advocate for a comprehensive definition of bid’ah which by definition can only be blameworthy. This they do on the basis of another hadith according to which the Prophet of Islam reportedly warned Muslims to be aware of the newly invented matters because every such matter is a bid’ah and that every bid’ah leads astray to Hellfire.[lii]Furthermore, Al-Madkhalee and Al-Atharee describe the methodologies of those Muslims from the past and the present, including the followers of the madhahib, who do not follow or oppose the ahl al-hadith mahaj as guilty of bid’ah. For example, Al-Atharee states that “whoever hates Ahlul-Hadith, ancient and new, old and young, then he is upon innovation”. Elsewhere he quotes Shah Walli Allah( d. 1762 AD), ,a noted hadith scholar from India, who in his book on the history of the ahl al-hadith accuses the madhahib of being innovators.[liii]Similarly, Al-Madkhalee includes a number of other Muslim groups such as the Khawarij, the Rawafid (i.e. the Shi’a), the Sufis and the ahl-kalam as those who belong to the innovators based on their manhaj.[liv] In the same vein Ibn Amir Ar Ruhaylee, Professor at the Islamic University of Madinah and teacher in the Prophet's mosque in Medinah , in his short treatise titled “Advice to the Muslim Youth” ,considers all other Muslims who do not belong to the Ahl Sunna ‘ulama , which he does not define in any specific manner, but given his elsewhere stated definition of Sunna it can be concluded that he conflates the Ahl Sunna ‘ulama with that of  the Ahl al-hadith,[lv] as people of bid’ah and people who have deviated from Sunna.[lvi]
Therefore we can conclude that the nature and the scope of the concept of Sunna according to the NTS school of thought is such that it considers sahih hadith its only vehicle of transmission and embodiment. Thus, on this they are again in agreement with the pre-modern ahl al-hadith. Furthermore, NTS scholars claim that by adhering to the ahl al-hadith manhaj of Sunna they automatically hold on to the salafi manhaj of the same. Finally, the NTS scholars have a unique concept of bid’ah which is conceptualised as an antonym of Sunna and is very comprehensive covering all issues that fall outside of their definition of ‘ilm.
Another important aspect of the debates that have unfolded in history in relation to the relative status of the various sources of legal authority and their authenticity is the legitimacy and the scope of non-textual sources in conceptualizing and interpreting the Islamic tradition which affected the definition of what constitutes valid or legitimate religious knowledge and its sources ( ‘ilm). On this issue the NTS school of thought is again in accordance with the pre-modern ahl al-hadith in their claim of the sole legitimacy of the Qur’an and hadith texts as sources of ‘ilm. In particular, they oppose the doctrines of taqlid, ijtihad in presence of text (i.e. the Qur’an and hadith), istihsan, qasd, maslaha mursalara’y and qiyas.[lvii] Instead, they advocate for and promote the institution of ittiba’ defined as unflinching adherence to ‘authentic’ hadith. According to the NTS community of interpretation  non-textual sources of knowledge can be used only if “there is no clear and explicit text which would allow the verification of the correctness of various opinions.”[lviii] Furthermore, according to the NTS manhaj, reason and reason-based sources of knowledge, which are relied on to some extent in the broader madhhab-based traditional Islamic scholarship,[lix] are considered to function outside the scope of the ‘valid’ religious knowledge contained in the Qur’an and the hadith-based Sunna. In this context an NTS scholar Al-Madanee asserts:
One who puts forward his ijtihad in a matter of fiqh, or analogy (qiyas) from the intellect, or an opinion derived from philosophy, or ta’weel, or tahreef, or a belief of shirk, or an innovated desire in the belief, statement or action-over even the smallest of clear established Prophetic Sunna found in the authorised reliable books of ahaadeeth, after coming across it in them –then he is not from the Saved Sect which the truthful Messenger specified.[lx]
As such,
There is no need to go to what has been collected by the people of opinions and people of ijtihad, from their many judgments and their papers on subsidiary issues. Most of them have no supporting proof for the declaration in them of what is lawful and what is unlawful, the permissible and the impermissible…”[lxi]
Legal sources of knowledge based on reason or reason –based opinion such as istihsan, qiyas and ‘the methods of the ahl-kalam’ are not recognised as valid.[lxii]Al-Madanee, quotes the opinion of a classical scholar Al-Maliki (d.390 AH) to support the view that taqlid is forbidden and that ittiba’ is considered one of the foundations of the Islamic religion.

Ibn Kuwaizmin said al-Maalikee said, “Taqleed in the legislation is going back to a statement which has no proof from its sayer and ittibaa’ is what is established to contain proof. Ittibaa’ in the religion is a foundation and taqleed is forbidden.”[lxiii]


The da’wah of the Ahlul-Hadith to take from the Book and the Sunna alone, without performing blind following (taqleed) of anyone in particular…[lxiv]

Bin Baz echoes this view by listing narrations of the Imams of the four Sunni madhahib which imply that the ‘blind following’ of their opinions is not warranted by the Imams themselves and that they prefer hadith over their own opinions.[lxv]Arguing against the need for taqlid in the field of theology and law, Al-Madanee similarly maintains that the textual indicants (‘adillah) present in the Quran and the Sunna can be determined   on the basis of hadith compilations of the “pure Sunna like al-Bukharee, Muslim and others from authentic books” which are “sufficient and satisfactory for all events and judgments up to the Day of Judgment.”[lxvi] This view is echoed by Al-Atharee.[lxvii]
Elsewhere strong criticism of the institution of the taqlid present in the madhahib is evident in the NTS literature.
For example, Al-Albanee writes:

This is the taqleed which rejects hadith in giving victory to the madhhab. The likes of this is prohibited by the caller of the Sunna.[lxviii]

On the other hand, NTS school of thought endorses the concept of ittiba’. For example, Al-Albanee, basing himself on a report from Ibn Hanbal considers that the institution of ittiba’ is to be equated with that of ahadith/athar.[lxix]Indeed, the entire religion is said to be restricted to ittiba’.[lxx]
The arguments over taqlid and ittiba’ have lead to numerous debates between the proponents of the madhahib and that ahl al-hadith /NTS scholars which are still ongoing.[lxxi]

Taken from chapter two of  this book ( free PDF).

[i]  24.
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid, 27.
[iv] M. Zaynoo, The Methodology of the Saved Sect, translated by Aboo Nasir ‘Abid bin Basheer, Invitation to Islam, London, 1999, 18.

[v] Al-Atharee, Clarification, 44.
[vi] Usually considered to be the first three generations of Muslims.
[vii] Translated by M. Mohar Ali, Jam’iat Ihyaa Minhaaj Al-Sunna, Ipswich, UK, 2000,11.
[viii] T.R.O.I.D. Publications, Toronto, 2003, 21-22.
[ix]M.bin Al-Uthaimeen, A Reply to the Doubts of the Qutubiyah concerning Ascription to Sunna and Salafiyyah, p.47, at www.salafipublications.com. Accessed on 30th of June, 2006.
[x]Ibid, 5.
[xi] Athar is usually a synonym for hadith, that is, it is a narrative going back to the Prophet but also at times to that of the Companion. Ahl al-hadith and ahl-athar are often used interchangeably.
[xii] Al-Atharee, Clarification, 29.
[xiii] Al-Madkhalle, The Methodology, 44.
[xiv] Ibid.
[xv]  Al-Uthaiymeen, A Reply, 88.
[xvi] M. Al-Majdub,’Ulama’ wa mufakkirun  ‘araftuhum : al-juz al-awwal, Cairo dar al I’tisam, 1980,290.
[xvii] See A. Ibn Muhammad al-Shamrani, Thabatu mu’allafat al-muhaddith al-kabir al-imam Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani, from www.dorar.net,p.17, accessed last 15.01.2011.
[xviii] Sufyan al-Thawri ibn Said (d. 161 A.H) was a tabi'i Islamic scholarhafiz and jurist, founder of the now extinct Thawri madhhab. He was also a hadith compiler.
[xix] Translated by Abu Talhah Dawood, Minhaj As-Sunna Publications, Birmingham, 2004, 22.
[xx] Al-Atharee, Clarification , 108-111.
[xxi] Al-Albanee, The Principals, 81
[xxii] Mainly hadith experts such as Abu Zur’ah ar-Razi ( d.264 ) and As-Asbahani (d.430)
[xxiii] This is a standard formula used in front of the actual content of the hadith implying usually oral transmission of knowledge via a chain of narrators reportedly going back to the Prophet or in some cases the Companions only.

[xxiv] Al-Madkhalee, The Methodology,193-194.
[xxv] Here he makes a distinction between Ahlul-hadith and Zahiris who differ form the former in their acceptance of only the basic or literal meaning and not what is implied by it.
[xxvi] Al-Madkhalee, The Methodology, 156-157.
[xxvii] Al-Albanee, The Principles ,34,36,41.
[xxviii] Al-Albanee, The Hadith is Proof itself in Belief and Laws, The Daar of Islamic heritage Publication, 1996.
[xxix] Al-Albanee, The Principles, 35-36.
[xxx] Zarabozo, The Methodology , 82.
[xxxi] Al-Albanee, The Principles,33-34.
[xxxii] Abu Talib al-Makki, Muhammad ibn 'Ali (d. 386/996 in Baghdad). hadith scholar, Maliki jurist and a Sufi Mystic, set down the foundation of Sufi practices.
[xxxiii] Al-Madkhalee, Methodology, 182.
[xxxiv] Al-Albanee, The Principles, 26.
[xxxv] Bin Baz, The Obligation, 6.
[xxxvi] M.M. Al-A’zami, Studies in Ḥadīth Methodology and Literature, Islamic Book Trust,
Kuala Lumpur, 2002, p. 6. Professor Emeritus at King Sa'ud University where he also chaired the department of Islamic Studies. He holds Saudi citizenship.
[xxxvii] Al-Atharee, Clarification , 98-99.
[xxxviii] R. Al-Madkhalee, The Status of the People of Hadeeth (the Ahlul-Hadeeth) : Their Feats and Praiseworthy Effects in the Religion ,tr by Abu Hakeem Bilal Davis, Salafi Publications, UK, 7;Al-Atharee, Clarification, 29; Zaynoo, The Methodology of the Saved Sect, 15.
[xxxix] Al-Atharee, Clarification, 65;  Al-Madkhalle, The Status, 37; Zaynoo, The Methodology, 13
[xl] Al-Atharee, Clarification, 13.
[xli] Al-Madkhalee, The Status.; Al-Atharee, Clarification.
[xlii] Abu Zahra, Ibn Hanbal, Dar al-Fikr Al-Arabi, 1965, p.232.
[xliii] M. Abu Zahra, Ibn Hanbal,Cairo, dar al-Fiker al-‘Arabi,1965, 239.
[xliv] Al-Madkhalee, The Status, 10.
[xlv] For the full list see Ibid, 11-12.
[xlvi] Ibid. Al-Atharee, Clarification ,178-182.
[xlvii] Zaynoo,The Methodology, 17.; Al-Madkhalee, The Methodology, 112.
[xlviii] For a madhhab based  definition of bid’ah see cf. Nuh Ha Mim Keller  http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/nuh/bida.htm , accessed on 24th November.
[xlix] Report is found in Al-Bukhari’s sahih according to which ‘Umar approved of an action (uniting people in prayer during the fasting month under one prayer leader) describing it as a good (bid’ah hasana) with which he was pleased.
[l] G.H. Haddad at  http://www.abc.se/~m9783/n/sdb_e.html;
[li] Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bârî, Beirut, Dar al-Ma'rifa, 1989 ed.,  4, 318; cf.  Ibn `Abd al-Salâm, al-Qawâ`id al-Kubrâ , Beirut, Dar al-Ma'rifa , 2,337-339.
[lii] Al-Uthaymin, Bid’ah And Their Evil Effects –The unique Nature of the Perfection Found in the Sharee’ah and the Danger of Innovating Into It, translated by Aboo ‘Abd-illaah as-Sayalaanee,Salafi Publications,1999,  11-16.;
[liii] Al-Atheree, Clarification,  32,71-2.
[liv] Al-Madkhalee, The Methodology,  46.
[lv] Ar Ruhaylee, quotes Al-Halaby Al- Altharee, a student of Al-Albanee, who endorses the same definition of Sunna as Al-Albanee. See http://www.indonesiaindonesia.com/en/f/6872-liabilities-hold-true-by-sunna-and-prohibition-doing-bid-ah-in-religion/, accessed last 14.01.2011.
[lvi] Ibraheem Ibn Am’ir Ar Ruhaylee, Advice to the Youth of Ahlus Sunah, http://abdurrahman.org/family/Advice_to_the_Youth_of_Ahlus_Sunna.pdf, visited last 14.01.2011.
[lvii] N.Al-Albanee,The Hadith; A.Al-Dawish, (ed.) Fatawa al-lajna al-da’ima lil-buhuth al ‘ilmiyya wal ifta’, Maktabat al-Ma'arif, Riyadh, 1412, 20 vol.,vol,4,p.176.
[lviii] That is either a qur’anic verse or an “authentic” hadith. See Uthaimeen, A Reply, 88.
[lix] See for example Hallaq, The Origins, op.cit.
[lx] Al-Madanee, The History of Ahl al-hadith -A Study of the Saved Sect and that it is The People of Hadeeth,trans.by Aboo ‘Ubaidah ibn Basheer,Salafi Publications, Birmingham 2005, 136.
[lxi] Ibid., 128.
[lxii] Al-Atheree, Clarification,25,100.
[lxiii] Al-Madanee,The History, 133.
[lxiv] Al-Madanee, The History, 28.
[lxv]Bin Baz, The Obligation, 23.; cf.Albani, The Hadith,  88-89
[lxvi] AL-Madanee, The History ,125.
[lxvii] Al-Atharee, Clarification,61,81,91.
[lxviii] Al-Albanee, The Principles, 91. cf. Albani, The Hadith, 83-109.
[lxix] Al_Albanee, The Principles, 29 fn 1.
[lxx] Al-Atharee, Clarification; Al Madkhalee, The Methodology.
[lxxi] Al-Abanee, The Principles ,‘has a section on the exchange between Tantawi the Head of Al-Azhar University and Al-Albanee (78-101). Also these debates can be found on the internet. One example is http://www.themodernreligion.com/basic/madhab/madhab-debate.htm, accessed 29th October, 2009.

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