FAQ in the category of Madhhabs and Sects

1 What is the reason why madhhabs were formed and what are their benefits for people?

In Islam, the religious judgments have two sources: the Book and the Sunnah: qiyas (analogy) and ijma (consensus), which are the next two things to be referred to after them, are essentially based on these two sources. Those four sources are called “four methods, four religious evidences” The four evidences are as follows:

1. the Book:

What is meant by the Book is the Quran. Our glorious book, which is the most essential source, has been preserved in the same form as it was first sent down; not even one letter of it has been changed because God Almighty, the owner of the glorious speech, has undertaken to preserve it and has preserved it. The first source to be referred to regarding a religious question is the Quran.

2. the Sunnah:

What is meant by the Sunnah is the holy words and deeds of the Messenger of Allah and the things that he saw but did not object to. Those acts of the Prophet are also called hadiths. The Companions (Sahaba) memorized thousands of hadiths regarding the details of religious judgments and decrees, preserved them and transferred them to Tabi’in, the generation coming after them. In 101 H, about four thousand hadiths regarding the details of religious judgments and decrees were compiled thanks to the efforts of Umar bin Abdulaziz for the first time. The Sunnah has an essential place in the determination of the religious judgments and decrees after the Quran.

3. Qiyas (Analogy):

It is to make a judgment about an issue through ijtihad based on a similar judgment that is definite. In other words, it is to apply a judgment regarding an issue that is definite by the book, the Sunnah or ijma (consensus) to a similar issue that is based on the same reason and wisdom. Qiyas can be applied only by a scholar who is at the level of ijtihad.   

4. Ijma (Consensus):

It is the unanimous agreement of the Islamic mujtahids living in the same age on a religious judgment about an issue. Accordingly, if there is a unanimous agreement on the judgments made by mujtahids through ijtihad regarding the same issue about which there is not a definite judgment in the Book and Sunnah, it becomes definite through the consensus of the ummah. If there is consensus about an issue, it is regarded to be a definite issue. The following hadiths indicate the issue:

“My ummah does not agree on something wrong.”1
What is regarded good by Muslims is good in the presence of Allah, too.”2


To make efforts in order to make a judgment about worshipping and rules out of religious evidence is called ijtihad. The scholar who makes a judgment out of the religious evidence is called a mujtahid. A mujtahid must have full knowledge in the issues about the Quran, the Sunnah and Islamic law.  
Since the period of our Prophet, Islamic scholars have made ijtihads and acted accordingly when they have not been able to find clear evidence about an issue that they have needed a religious judgment in the Book and the Sunnah. Our Prophet let his Companions do so. As a matter of fact, when the Prophet appointed Muadh bin Jabal, a scholar and faqih from the Companions, as a judge to Yemen, he asked Muadh,   
“How will you judge there? How will you settle the problem when you are asked something or when a plaintiff came to you?”
Muadh: “By the Book of Allah.”
The Messenger of Allah: “If you cannot find it in the Book?”
Muadh: “By the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah”
The Messenger of Allah: “If you cannot find it there, either?”
Muadh: “If I cannot find it there, either, I will judge by my own ijtihad.”
Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah said, “Praise be to Allah, who made the Prophet’s messenger {Muadh} successful in the thing that the prophets consented to.”, expressing his pleasure about the words of Muadh.3

When our Prophet (pbuh) died, the Companions had memorized the Book and the Sunnah. However, among the Companions, those who had religious and legal competence in knowing the Quran and the Sunnah and understanding their decrees and meanings gave fatwas. They were the scholars and faqihs of the Companions. The most famous of them were Hazrat Umar, Hazrat Ali, Abdullah bin Mas’ud, Hazrat Aisha, Abdullah bin Umar, Abdullah bin Abbas and Abu Musa al-Ash’ari.

During the period of the Four Caliphs and later, Muslims asked those people about the problems they faced and they made judgments based on the Book and the Sunnah; when they could not find the answer in them, they used analogy. Thus, during the period of the Companions, consensus took place in many issues; and the Islamic law, fiqh, started to form.
Meanwhile, the Companions moved to some cities and settled there; they served Islam there through their knowledge. For instance, Hazrat Ali and Abdullah bin Mas’ud in Kufa, Anas bin Malik and Abu Musa al-Ash’ari in Basra, Abdullah bin Umar and Zayd bin Thabit in Madinah trained hundreds of students. The students that the Companions trained are called “Tabiin”. The heritage of the knowledge that the Messenger of Allah left was transferred to that generation. There were many scholars among them that had reached the level of ijtihad. For instance, Ibrahim an-Nahai, Hasan al-Basri, Tawus bin Qaysan are some of them.

Tabiin compiled the hadiths that the Companions narrated and their ijtihads. In addition, they made ijtihads related to the issues that there were no verses, hadiths or ijtihads of the Companions about. They tried to train the students that gathered around them. They guided their students and helped them to establish the foundations of the Islamic law, to examine the new issues thoroughly and to explain the judgments about them. That generation is called “Taba’ at-Tabiin”. Imam Azam, Imam Malik, Imam Shafii, Ahmad bin Hanbal, Sufyan ath-Thawri, Sufyan bin Uyayna are among the famous scholars of that generation. Although some of those people, for instance, Imam Azam saw some of the Companions, they are regarded to be among Taba’ at-Tabiin due to their scholastic nature.  

The formation of fiqh madhhabs took place in that period. The imams of Taba’ at-Tabiin compiled the ijtihads of the Companions and Tabiin. They themselves made ijtihads when it was necessary. They made scholastic studies on thousands of issues that Muslims faced and established certain rules. They lived in different cities and studied in the cities that they lived. On the other hand, the fatwa method of each of them was different. Some of them accepted only the Quran and the Sunnah as reference; some used analogy along with them; some gave fatwas based on their own views in the light of the Quran, the Sunnah and the consensus. Some of them took the customs and traditions of the region where he lived into consideration. Those kinds of ijtihads and fatwas facilitated the religious lives of Muslims.

Those ijtihads of the mujtahids were not about the essentials of Islam; they were about secondary issues. In the course of time, different ijtihads and explanations on the same issue appeared. Muslims accepted the ijtihads of the mujtahids living in their regions and acted accordingly in their worshipping and transactions.

That preference and favoring was replaced by madhab, which meant the way to be followed, in the course of time. That period was a very productive ground in which many Islamic sciences primarily hadith and tafsir were studied. Many scholars at the level of ijtihad were present. Since there were some people who accepted the views and fatwas of each mujtahid, eventually, each imam was regarded as the representative of a madhhab. That situation caused the appearance of hundreds of madhhabs.

In the course of time, most of the scholars that were in the state of madhhab imams followed and entered the madhabs of the other imams that they regarded as more learned than themselves or the madhab of the imams that had made the same ijtihads as themselves in the same issues. Besides, none of the madhhab mujtahids said, “We founded a madhhab; follow us and accept our madhabs; call that madhhabs by our names.” and called people to their madhhabs. They only taught the people who came to their lessons the religious sciences and tried to answer the questions that they were asked. When they were asked about the judgment of the religion about an issue, they would answer it. The students who learned from them, the scholars who accepted their words and ijtihads and the people followed them. Thus, their words and ijtihads became a madhhab.   

Those holy people were always free from subjective thoughts when they made ijtihad. They did not have egoism and conceit in science. They accepted the truth and the good things no matter where they found them. 

The efforts of the students had a great effect on the formation of the madhhabs based on the ijtihads of the mujtahids. Therefore, some students of the mujtahids compiled and classified the ijtihads of their teachers and transformed them into a system; however, many students could not be so successful.

Many madhhabs that formed in the beginning could not continue when their students and followers decreased; they exist in the books, now. Today, four of the Ahl as-Sunnah madhhabs exist. They are Imam Abu Hanifa and Hanafi madhhab, Imam Malik and Maliki madhhab, Imam Shafii and Shafii madhhab, and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal and Hanbali madhhab.

1. Ibn Majah, Fitan:8.
2. Musnad, 1:379.
3. Tirmidhi, Ahkam:3; Abu Dawud, Aqdiyya:11; Ibn Majah, Manasik:38.

Mehmed Paksu İbadet Hayatımız

2 Which (Islamic) sect (madhhab) is better to follow? Which one is superior to others? What is the reason of difference of the sects?

All of the four sects are righteous and truthful. Thus, it is wrong to say that one sect is superior to others.

There is a unique garment suitable for each season. There is a medicine for each disease. Likewise, the rules may change with respect to change of the centuries; the judgments may change depending on the traditions, lifestyles and abilities of the communities. We know that, different prophets and rules were sent to each nation before Islam.

Before our Prophet (PBUH), the mankind used to live far away from each other, used to have quite different lifestyles; they were mostly like bedouins. Therefore the religious rules that were sent were suitable for their situations. So much so that, different prophets were sent with different religions at the same time.

After the coming of our Prophet (PBUH), the mankind gained a high position of abilities, lifestyle and understanding. There had been many revolutions and changes in the religious and social status of people. So, the mankind was enabled to be taught by one teacher and to have a unique teaching. Therefore, several prophets were no longer necessary. However, since the lifestyles were not suddenly unified, different sects were still necessary.

If the majority of the mankind were at the same level in terms of education, culture and lifestyle like the students of a high school, it could be possible to mention the unification of the sects. However, the current state of the humanity is not appropriate for it.
As for the reason of ramification of the sects, Bediuzzaman exemplifies the issue as follows:

A certain amount of water is evaluated in five different ways for five different patients:

For one of them, it is a medicine, it is medically compulsory to use. For another, it is like a poison, so it is medically forbidden to drink. For another, it is less harmful, so it is just disliked medically. For another, it is good without harming, then, it is a sunnah medically. And for the last one, it is neither good  or bad, so for him, it is simply allowed to drink. As you see here, one piece of truth differs here severally. All of them are true.  Is it possible for you to say: “ Water is merely a medicine, it is compulsory, nothing else.”?

Likewise, the divine rules differ depending on sects and the practitioners through the divine wisdom. It differs rightfully and each way is right and useful.1

Muslims living in different regions of the world, follow one of the four sects. A Muslim can follow one of those righteous sects, practice his deeds and worships according to the instructions of that sect. It is not compulsory for a Muslim to abide by one certain sect till death. Therefore, it is allowed to change the sect if desired. For example, a practitioner of the Hanafi sect may choose the Shafii sect afterwards and vice versa.

However, one must know the rules of the new sect he/she follows in order to perform the worships properly. For example, if a Shafii sect member changes to Hanafi, he should at least know the musts of the ablution (wudu), the cases that annul the ablution, the musts of the prayer (salat). Otherwise, he/she might perform these duties with flaws.

It is possible to change the sect; one may use a preference of another sect if he/she may not find a solution in his/her sect. It is permissible. However, it must not stem from a personal urge or the pleasure of imitation. It must be out of a necessity and dire need. A person who uses the rulings of another sect, must consider the following points:

First: If a certain deed is to be imitated in accordance with another sect, then that deed must not be done before. For example, if a practitioner of the Shafii sect remembers that he touched his wife before performing the prayer and still performs the prayer following the Hanafi sect and saying “It is OK in Hanafi” , that worship is not valid.

Second: An imitator should not resort to combining the different applications that ease the conditions in different sects. Such an act called “talfik” which means to do the opposite things in two sects. It is not permissible. For example, one who has ablution according to Hanafi sect is regarded to have ablution even if he does not utter the intention for it. becasue because intention is not a must for ablution in Hanafi. However, the same nam should wipe one fourth of his head according to Hanafi. Hoıwever, less than one fourth is enough in Shafii. If this man wipes less than one fourth of his head abiding by the Shafii, then this ablution is not licit. It is called talflik, which is not permissible.2

Nonetheless, it is a pious and praised deed to act with respect to harder options of the sects. For example, if a Hanafi sect follower touches his wife, his ablution is still valid but invalid for Shafii. However, if this man renews his ablution through imitating Shafii sect, it is a pious act. Similarly, if a Shafii sect follower renews his ablution when he bleeds, it is a sign of his piety.
 Likewise, it is a pious and meritorious act to imitate the practice of other sects about the prayers (dua) and similar supererogatory worships which do not take place in Hanafi sect.
 These points must be considered about the issues of ijtihad (the endeavor of a Moslem scholar to derive a rule of divine law from the Koran and Hadith without relying on the views of other scholars) and imitation:

-People are divided into three groups in imitating an Islamic sect:

First group: the scholars that are able to do ijtihad. These scholars may not imitate anyone else.

Second group: Although they are not at the level of absolute ijtihad, they are knowledgeable men that know the method of jurisdiction and by using the same methods, they can put forward different ideas on certain issues. They are divided into two main groups such as: mujtahid in sect and mujtahid in issues. (mujtahid is one who can do ijtihad)

The third group is the populace.

According to the scholars, the populace does not have a sect. Their sect is the fatwa (a religious edict) of the mufti (A Muslim scholar and interpreter of shari'a law, who can deliver a fatwa) because, a true imitation of a sect in only possible through knowing the views of it. It requires a deep knowledge to decide which sect’s view is more appropriate. It is obvious that it is a hard issue. It is true not only for the populace but also so-called scholars like us. (Ravdatu’t-talibîn, 4/115-shamila).

The issue of imitating the sects did not emerge depending on a certain scholar’s view. There is consensus about the rightfulness and appropriateness to sunnah of the four sects of Islam among the Islamic scholars. (See Al-Muflih, al-Furu’, 12/202-shamila) Therefore, we need to live our religious life by a certain rightful sect. Nevertheless, it is allowed to use an easier practice in another sect in case of dire need.

There is no certain ceremony required to change the sect. And there are no certain rules to fulfill to do it. The important point is to learn the rules of the sect and then live by them.

According to some scholars, there are some conditions of imitating a sect:

1. The imitated sect must be a righteous one which has a set of settled rules with true resources.

2. The imitator should know the scientific roots and methods of the considered issue.

3. The imitated issue must not be annulled by an official court or mufti.

4. Talfik (combining the easing rules of the sects) must be strictly avoided.

5. About the same issue, there must not be a practice opposing to it, while abiding by the same rule at another time.

6. The different rules of the sects must not be united. That is to say, one who does not renew his ablution when he touches a lady and when he bleeds, has no valid ablution according to both sects: Hanafi or Shafi.

Those conditions show that the sect of the populace is the fatwa of the scholars. Because all of these conditions require a scientific background.

References: 1) Badiuzzaman Said Nursi. Words  (Istanbul: Sözler Publications, 1987), p. 454-455.
2) Ibn Abidin, Raddu’l-Mukhtar. (Beirut: Ihyau’t-Turathi’l-Arabi) 1:51;
3) as-Sayyid Abi Bakr. Ianatu’t-Talibin. (Beirut: Ihyau’t-Turathi’l -Arabi) 4:219;
4) Mehmed Paksu İbadet Hayatımız (Our Worshipping Life)

3 Are institutions like jama’ahs (congregations, groups) necessary in Islam?

Let us take a look at associations and collaborations in the world. If man had eyes in every point of his body, it would be useless. Different kinds of elements come together and the miracle called life comes out. Now if the eye said, “You should all be like me”, that word would be both useless and impossible. Then if all organs said, “Let our aim be one and let every part serve for the continuation of the body and life as far as we can.” it would be the best way to handle problems.
Moreover, different kinds of professions in societies can be evaluated in the same way as different sects in the military such as air, naval, and land forces.
Different congregations, orders and sects in the Religion can be seen like that. They are all like the different organs of the body. However, they should have the only aim: “To serve humanity for Allah’s sake.” When the aim is one, it does not matter what they call themselves.
Another important issue is about criticizing each other. Suppose that you asked someone who was the best mother in the world, there is no doubt that he would say she was his own mother. He is also right to answer like that. However, this answer does not mean that there are not any other good mothers in the world.
If one asked us which one was the best sect, profession, and way of behaving, we would say that it was ours because we believe like that. Others can also think like that. Then conflicts and enmities will disappear.

The religious congregations are like organs which try to maintain the spiritual life of the societies. As long as they have the same aim, they will do everything for Allah’s sake.
Allah is the Creator of our lives and He determines the way through which we go. That is, whatever is necessary for a human being to be called as human being is determined by Allah. There is no need for a different authority for it. For this reason, the Institution of Prophethood, which put the rules set up by Allah into a system and made them clear,  has also been founded and directed by Allah.
Therefore, firstly the Qur’an and then the Sunnah is our guide. Our true sects which benefit from those two Sources are also religious institutions taking us closer to Allah. Basic rules and principles suggested by them are based on the Qur’an and Hadith. For this reason, they are indispensable for Islam and the Religion, because when a Mujtahid says a word, he does not speak for himself; he speaks and gives Fatwa on behalf of Allah; he set up his way of thinking based on the idea “I understand this like this from the Qur’an.”
As for religious congregations, they are considered from the Religion if their aim is Allah’s consent and Ihsan (perfection in worship) because scholars who lead these sects act according to this idea “How can I gain the consent of Allah? How can I direct these people to the True Way?So, we should also consider those kinds of people from the Religion, because their aim, in every kind of word they say, is Allah’s consent and they act in accodance with  the rules set up by Allah.
What they talk is based on the Qur’an and Hadith
. If those kinds of people talk in accordance with the Religion’s rules, not on their own, of course, they will talk about divine warnings which save Muslims from indifference and direct them to being serious. They will state that some kinds of disasters and difficulties which occur to people are because they reluctantly serve for the Religion.
Besides, while a part of the Qur’an and Shariah talk about rewards, the other part of them also talk about punishment for sins committed. If they are said by an Islamic scholar and he says and inform them that they will be punished because of what they have done, it will completely be by the Shariah.