13.3 Influence of the Hadiths as a source of law (ahle- hadith)
The four schools of thought (law) as discussed in section 13.2 are generally classed together as Ahle-Fiqh. In Muslim eyes they are all equally valid and their decisions equally sacred. The believer may belong to any one of these, but he must choose one. The liberty of variety in unity is again due to agreement. However, the conflict in the application of the law between the followers of the various schools has also caused sectarian division among the Sunnis. The Hanafi school has the largest following. The next in order of size of following are the Shafi and the Maliki schools while the smallest is the Hanbali school which is followed by the Wahabite state of Saudi Arabia.
There is another school of thought, commonly called the Traditionalists (Ahle-Hadith). They maintain that it is not Fiqh but the ‘sayings’ of the Prophet which should be enforced as they are, since they supposedly contain fundamental and unchangeable law. This school holds that after scrutiny, Hadith occupies the same position and authority as the Qur’an, and a denial of Hadith affects one’s faith and honesty in the same manner as the denial of the Qur’an itself will do – i.e. beyond the pale of Islam.3 They also believe:
In our view Hadith is revealed and whatever it says was conveyed to Rasoolullah in the same way as the Holy Qur’an. The (angel) GabrielA1 came with the Holy Qur’an as well as the Sunnah and conveyed Sunnah to Rasoolullah in the manner he conveyed to him the Holy Qur’an. We do not approve of discrimination in Revelations and hold both the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnahin concurrent authority.4
In regard to the two anthologies Bukhari and Muslim, the school holds that: ‘By consensus of opinion Muslims acknowledge that the agreed hadiths in the two anthologies are valid and their veracity absolute.’5
The above view is not shared by all those who consider Hadith the basis of Islamic Law (Shariat), as would appear from the following comment by Maudoodi: ‘Ahadith has come down through a chain of narrators, one person passing information verbally to another. By its very nature the process can at best be viewed as conveying probability and not certainty. It is unthinkable that Allah would leave believers in the matter of faith in a position in which they should determine their course of action on the basis of material passed on by word of mouth.’ He goes on to say: ‘The material may be useful as a help in ascertaining the practice of Rasoolullah and the doings of his companions, but it is not a thing which could claim complete reliance. The claim that the text of all the Ahadith in Bukhari should be accepted without critical appreciation is untenable’.6