Doubt: You admit the Imam’s of the Madhabs may have made mistakes and it is possible that they missed some of the hadith. This is therefore a proof that we should not follow the Madhabs.
Answer: What the person making this objection does not realise is that the Madhabs are not just the work of one particular scholar, rather they are the work of thousands of learned scholars down the ages, many of whom had memorized the books of hadith and were far more knowledgeable than the scholars of today. Thus when we have scholars within the Madhabs researching and correcting opinions and thereby clarifying what the strongest position is, which is finally transmitted to us to act upon.
This is very different to the scenario of today where a student claims to follow a Madhab and then disagree’s based on limited research mistakenly believing that their approach is the same as that of the scholars of the Madhabs who refined their Imams schools and clarified for us the strongest view in it. Let us mention some examples from each of the schools to show that what has been transmittied to us from the Madhabs are indeed a rigorously and refined set of rulings.
Imam Abu Hanifah was of the view that if a person decided to make a charitable endowment (waqf) it was not necessary upon them to implement it, rather they were permitted to change their mind regarding it. Some specific scenarios were excluded from this, but in general according to Imam Abu Hanifah there was nothing established to necessitate the implementation of waqf.
He was opposed on this point by the generality of his students and the other Imam’s who were of the view of the necessity of implementing a waqf once it has been classified as such. Such that the legal verdict (fatwa) in the Hanafi school is given according to this view of his students. Imam al-Kawthari mentions in ‘al-Nukat al-Tarifah’ (p.40):
Isa bin Aban said: When Abu Yusuf came to Baghdad he held the view of Abu Hanifah regarding the permissibility of selling charitable endowments (awqaf). This was until Ismaeel bin Aliyyah narrated to him from Ibn Awn from Nafi from Ibn Umar regarding his charity (sadaqah) from his share from Khaybar. Abu Yusuf said: This is that which it is not permitted to differ with. If this had reached Abu Hanifah this would have been his view and he would not have differed with it.
In the ‘Taqaddimah al-Jarh wa al-Tadil’ (p.31) of Ibn Abi Hatim al-Razi, he narrated with his chain to Imam Abdullah bin Wahb, one of the notable students of Imam Malik. Ibn Wahb said:
I heard Malik being questioned regarding the rubbing between the toes in wudu. He answered: It is not upon the people (to practise it). He- Ibn Wahb- said: I remained silent until the people had left and I said to him: With us it is a sunnah. He asked: What is it? I said: al-Layth bin Sa’d, Ibn Lahiyah and Amr bin al-Harith narrated to us from Yazid bin Amr al-Ma’afiri from Abi Abd al-Rahman al-Hubbali from al-Mutawrad Ibn Shaddad al-Qurashi said: I saw the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) rubbing with his small finger between his toes. He-Malik- said: This hadith is Hasan, and I did not hear it except now. I then heard him being questioned after this and he would order the rubbing between the toes.
Ibn Abd al-Barr added in ‘al-Istidhkar’ (1/18):
Malik started to practise this in his wudu.
In ‘al-Illal’ of Imam Ahmad (1/155) and ‘Manaqib al-Shafi’ of al-Bayhaqi (1/527) Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal said:
Al-Shafi said to us: You are the more knowledgeable of hadith and narrators than me, if there is a hadith then inform me of it, even if it is Kufan, Basran or from al-Shaam, so that I may go towards it if it is Sahih.
It is mentioned in the book ‘al-Amr bil Maruf wal-Nahi an-Nil Munkar’ (p.121) of Imam Abu Bakr al-Khallal one of the Hanbali Imam’s and also in ‘Kitab al-Ruh’ of Imam Ibn al-Qayyim (p.31) that:
…Ali bin Musa al-Haddad said: I was with Ahmad bin Hanbal and Muhammad bin Qudamah al-Jawhari in a funeral. After the deceased had been buried a blind man sat and was reciting by his grave. Ahmad said to him: O man! the recitation by the grave is an innovation!. When we left the graveyard Muhammad bin Qudama said to Ahmad bin Hanbal: O Abu Abdullah, what do you say regarding Mubashir al-Halabi? He replied: Trustworthy. He said: Have you recorded anything from him? He replied: Yes. I said: Mubashir reported to me, from Abd al-Rahman bin al-Ala bin al-Lajlaj from his father, that he instructed that when he is buried that by his head the opening and end of ‘al-Baqarah’ be recited. And he said: I heard Ibn Umar instruct with this. Ahmad said to him: Go back and tell the man to recite.