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Hanafi Salafism: An Oxymoron?

Sheikh Haitham Al-Haddad

category: Islamic Identity


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Another example is taken from the great Maliki scholar Ibn Abd Al Barr (368- 463) who stated that Zakah is obligatory on figs although Imam Malik in the Muwatta' considered it non-applicable as it did not fit his definition of a commodity upon which Zakat is due. Ibn Abd Al Barr said, "Had Imam Malik known that figs can be stored without being spoiled, he would have declared Zakat obligatory on it."[2] Examples of this nature are numerous and the underlying principle is that true adherence to a school is where one follows the methodology and approach of his Imam rather than merely following each verdict as an isolated ruling. Some may argue that it is impractical for the laity to understand the principles by which the Imam of a school of thought derived his opinions. The response to this is to point out that the matter is not for the laity to study and understand the detailed principles in Islamic Law, but instead for them to be open-minded and possess the flexibility that allows them to adopt other opinions once they are satisfied that it is closest to the truth (while remaining tolerant of other orthodox views). However, those who study Islamic law can, to a certain extent, understand the origins of the legal opinion and the method by which it was derived, and thus will be held accountable by Allah accordingly.

It should also be emphasized that following a particular school does not free a person from putting any effort to follow the truth that has been revealed by Allah the Most High. Allah will not hold people accountable for their lack of adherence to a specific school, but rather for their identification of the correct ruling in any particular matter. Therefore, once an adherent of a school of thought becomes aware of another opinion in opposition to the one adopted by their school of thought, they have been afforded a good enough grounds to investigate further - it is incorrect for anyone to assume that they are not obliged to investigate merely because the opinion does not source from their school.

In conclusion, it is perfectly possible for a Hanafi to ascribe to Salafism whilst a Salafi may be an adherent of a school of thought being convinced of its methodology. To be a Hanafi is to ascribe to a certain understanding of the Qur'an and Sunnah, whereas Salafism is to ascribe to an Islamic methodology and outlook, namely that of the earliest generations of Islam. There is no contradiction between the two since they are not in the same category. One is to follow an interpretation of the Islamic sources of authority – fiqh; and the other is to have a distinguished manner by which to practice one's faith and approach its different aspects - manhaj. Once this is understood, we can call for a revival of the relationship between adherents of the various schools whereby they should strive to follow the same methodology of their Imams. There also needs to be an endeavor where those who attribute themselves to Salafism need to understand what truly is blameworthy when it comes to following Schools of Thought.

Furthermore, we should not limit Salafism to a method of deriving Islamic law, but instead as a way by which to follow the early generations in all aspects of the faith such as believing in and preserving the Orthodox Islamic creed (aqidah), worshiping Allah, keeping away from sins, maintaining morals and etiquette, and implementing Islamic rules of engagement with Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

It is up to us to achieve a breakthrough in uniting Muslims, something which will undoubtedly ensure a lasting revival since we learn from history that the recovery of a nation is preceded by a revitalization in its thoughts and ideas. Likewise, such a revival equips the ummah with the necessary tools to free its thinking from narrow-mindedness, partisanship, shallowness, ignorance, and an inferiority complex. Allah says,

"And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves, and remember Allah's Favor on you, for you were enemies one to another but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His Grace, you became brethren - you were on the brink of a pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus Allah makes His signs clear to you, that you may be guided."[3]

[1] Quran 4:59
[2] See: Tafsir Al Qurtubi (Al Jami' li Ahkam Al Qur'an); surah Al Ma'idah, verse 141.
[3] Qur'an 3:103

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