The preceding Introduction was written ten years ago, during which time it has become apparent to us that our words have had a positive effect on Muslim youth in guiding them towards the obligation in matters of their Deen and worship to return to the pure sources of Islaam: the Book and the Sunnah. Among them, there was an increase in the ranks of of those who practised the Sunnah and devoted themselves to it, - Praise be to Allaah - such that they became conspicuous for it. However, I still found among some of them a steadfastness in failing to practise the Sunnah: not due to any doubt about its obligation after reading the Qur'aanic verses and narrations from the Imaams about going back to the Sunnah, but because of some objections and misconceptions which they had heard from some muqallid Shaykhs. Therefore, I decided to mention these incorrect notions and refute them, so that perhaps this would encourage more people to practise the Sunnah and thus be among the Saved Sect, Allaah Willing.
Some of them say,
"There is no doubt that it is obligatory to return to the guidance of our Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم) in the matters of our Deen, especially in the recommended acts of worship such as Prayer, where there is no room for opinion or ijtihaad, due to their immutable nature. However, we hardly hear any of the muqallid Shaykhs propounding this; in fact, we find them upholding difference of opinion, which they regard as flexibility for the Ummah. Their proof for this is the hadeeth which they repeatedly quote in such circumstances, when refuting the helpers of the Sunnah,'The difference of opinion (ikhtilaaf) among my Ummah is a mercy (rahmah)'.
It seems to us that this hadeeth contradicts the principles to which you invite and based on which you have compiled this book and others. So, what do you say about this hadeeth?"
Answer: The answer is from two angles:
- Firstly: This hadeeth is not authentic; in fact, it is false and without foundation. 'Allaamah Subki said,"I have not come across an authentic or weak or fabricated chain of narration for it", i.e. no chain of narrators exists for this "hadeeth"!
It has also been related with the wordings: "... the difference of opinion among my Companions is a mercy for you" and "My Companions are like the stars, so whichever of them you follow, you will be guided." Both of these are not authentic: the former is very feeble; the latter is fabricated. (See Appendix 1)
- Secondly: This hadeeth contradicts the Glorious Qur'aan, for the aayaat forbidding division in the Deen and enjoining unity are too well-known to need reminding. However, there is no harm in giving some of them by way of example: Allaah says,
"... and do not fall into disputes, lest you lose heart and your power depart." ;
"And do not be among those join deities with Allaah, those who split up their Deen and become sects - each party rejoicing with what it has!" ;
"But they will not cease to differ, except those on whom your Lord bestows His Mercy." 
Therefore, if those on whom your Lord has mercy do not differ, and the people of falsehood differ, how can it make sense that differing is a mercy?!
Hence, it is established that this hadeeth is not authentic, neither in the chain of narration, nor in meaning; therefore, it is clear and obvious that it cannot be used to justify resistance towards acting on the Book and the Sunnah, which is what our Imaams have commanded us anyway.
"If differing in the Deen is forbidden, what do you say about the differences among the Companions and among the Imaams after them? Is there any distinction between their differing and that of later generations?"
Answer: Yes, there is a big difference between these two examples of differing, which manifests itself in two ways: firstly, in cause; secondly, in effect.
- As for the differing among the Companions, that was unavoidable, natural difference of understanding: they did not differ by choice. Other factors of their time contributed to this, necessitating difference of opinion, but these vanished after their era.  This type of differing is impossible to totally remove and such people cannot be blamed in the light of the above mentioned aayaat because of the absence of the appropriate conditions, i.e. differing on purpose and insisting on it.
However, as for the differing found among the muqallideen today, there is no overriding excuse for it. To one of them, the proof from the Book and the Sunnah is shown, which happens to support a Madhhab other than his usual one, so he puts the proof aside for no other reason except that it is against his Madhhab. It is as though his Madhhab is the original, or it is the Deen which Muhammad (صلى الله علیه وسلم) brought, while other Madhhabs are separate Deens which have been abrogated! Others take the opposite extreme, regarding the Madhhabs - for all their differences - as parallel codes of Law, as some of their later adherents explain : there is no harm in a Muslim taking what he likes from them and leaving what he likes, because they are all valid codes of Law!
Both these categories of people justify their remaining divided by this false hadeeth, "The differing among my Ummah is a mercy" - so many of them we hear using this as evidence! Some of them give the reason behind this hadeeth and its purpose by saying that it ensures flexibility for the Ummah! Apart from the fact that this "reason" is contrary to the clear Qur'aanic verses and to the meanings of the Imaam's words mentioned, there is also text fom some Imaams to refute it.
Ibn al-Qaasim - (رحمه الله) - said,"I heard Maalik and Laith saying about the differing of the Companions of the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله علیه وسلم), 'It is not as people say: "There is flexibility in it"; no, it is not like that, but it is a matter of some being mistaken and some being correct'." 
Ashhab - (رحمه الله) - said,"Maalik was asked about the person who accepted a hadeeth narrated by reliable people in the authority of the Companions of the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله علیه وسلم): 'Do you see any flexibility there?' He said, 'No, by Allaah, so that he may be on the truth. Truth can only be one. Two contradictory views, can both be correct?! Truth and right are only one." 
Imaam Muzani - (رحمه الله), a companion of Imaam Shaafi'i - (رحمه الله) - said,"The Companions of the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله علیه وسلم) indeed differed, and some of them corrected others. Some scrutinised others' views and found fault with them. If all their views had been correct, they would not have done so.
'Umar ibn al-Khattab became angry at the dispute between Ubayy ibn Ka'b and Ibn Mas'ood about prayer in a single garment. Ubayy said, 'Prayer in one garment is good and fine'; Ibn Mas'ood said, 'That is only if one does not have many clothes.' So 'Umar came out in anger, saying, 'Two men from among the companions of the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله علیه وسلم), who are looked up to and learnt from, disputing? Ubayy has spoken the truth and not cared about Ibn Mas'ood. But if I hear anyone disputing about it after this I will do such-and-such to him'." 
Imaam Muzani - (رحمه الله) - also said,"There is the one who allows differing and thinks that if two scholars make ijtihaad on a problem and one says, 'Halaal', while the other says, 'Haraam', then both have arrived at the truth with their ijtihad! It can be said to such a person, 'Is this view of yours based on the sources or on qiyaas (analogy) ?' If he says, 'On the sources', it can be said, 'How can it be based on the sources, when the Qur'aan negates differing ?' And if he says, 'On analogy', it can be said, 'How can the sources negate differing, and it be allowed for you to reason by analogy that differing is allowed?! This is unacceptable to anyone intelligent, let alone to a man of learning." 
If it is said further:"What you have quoted from Imaam Maalik that truth is only one, not plural, is contradicted by what is found in Al-Madkhal al-Fiqhi by Shaykh Zarqaa' (1/89),"The Caliphs Abu Ja'far al-Mansoor and later ar- Rasheed proposed to select the Madhhab of Imaam Maalik and his book Al-Muwatta' as the official code of Law for the 'Abbaasi empire, but Maalik forbade them from this, saying, "Indeed, the Companions of the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله علیه وسلم) differed in the non- fundamental issues and were scattered in various towns, but each of them was correct."
I say: This incident of Imaam Maalik - (رحمه الله) - is well-known, but his saying at the end, "but each of them was correct" is one for which I find no basis in any of the narrations or sources I have come across , by Allaah, except for one narration collected by Abu Nu'aim in Hilyah al- Awliyaa' (6/332), but with a chain of narrators which includes al-Miqdaam ibn Daawood who is classified among the weak narrators by Dhahabi in ad-Du'afaa'; not only this, but the wording of it is, "... but each of them was correct in his own eyes." Hence the phrase "in his own eyes" shows that the narration in Madkhal is fabricated; indeed, how could it be otherwise, when it contradicts what has been reported on reliable authority from Imaam Maalik that truth is only one and not plural, as we have mentioned, and this is agreed on by all the Imaams of the Companions and the Successors as well as the four Mujtahid Imaams and others. Ibn 'Abdul Barr says, "If the conflicting views could both be right, the Salaf would not have corrected each other's ijtihaad, judgments, and verdicts. Simple reasoning forbids that something and its opposite can both be correct; as the fine saying goes,"To prove two opposites simultaneously is the most hideous absurity." 
If it is said further,"Given that this narration from Imaam Maalik is false, why did he forbid al-Mansoor from bringing the people together on his book Al-Muwatta' rather than acceding to the Caliph's wish?"
I say: The best that I have found in answer to this is what Haafidh Ibn Katheer has mentioned in his Sharh Ikhtisaar 'Uloom al-Hadeeth (p.31), that Imaam Maalik said,"Indeed the people have come together on, and know of, things which we are not acquainted with."
This was part of the excellence of his wisdom and impartiality, as Ibn Katheer - (رحمه الله) - says:Hence, it is proved that all differing is bad, not a mercy! However, one type of differing is reprehensible, such as that of staunch followers of the Madhhabs, while another type is not blameworthy, such as the differing of the Companions and the Imaams who succeeded them - May Allaah raise us in their company, and give us the capability to tread their path.
Therefore, it is clear that the differing of the Companions was not like that of the muqallideen. Briefly: the Companions only differed when it was inevitable, but they used to hate disputes, and would avoid them whenever possible; as for the muqallideen, even though it is possible in a great many cases to avoid differing, they do not agree nor strive towards unity; in fact, they uphold differing. Hence there is an enormous gulf between these two types of people in their difference of opinion.
This was from the point of view of cause.
- The difference in effect is more obvious.
The Companions (رضي الله عنهم), despite their well-known differing in non-fundamental issues, were extremely careful to preserve outward unity, staying well-away from anything which would divide them and split their ranks. For example, there were among them those who approved of saying the basmalah loudly (in prayer) and those who did not; there were those who held that raising the hands (in prayer) was recommended and those who did not; there were those who held that touching a woman nullified ablution, and those who did not; - but despite all that, they would all pray together behind one imaam, and none of them would disdain from praying behind an imaam due to difference of opinion.
As for the muqallideen, their differing is totally opposite, for it has caused Muslims to be divided in the mightiest pillar of faith after the two testifications of faith: none other than the Salaah (Prayer). They refuse to pray together behind one imaam, arguing that the imaam's prayer is invalid, or at least detestable, for someone of a different Madhhab. This we have heard and seen, as others beside us have seen ; how can it not be, when nowadays some famous books of the Madhhabs rule such cases of invalidity or detestability. The result of this has been that you find four Mihraabs (alcoves) in some large congregational mosques, in which four imaams successively lead the Prayer, and you find people waiting for their imaam while another imaam is already standing in Prayer!!!
In fact, to some muqallideen, the difference between the Madhhabs has reached a worse state than that, such as a ban in marriage between Hanafees and Shaafi'is; one well known Hanafi scholar, later nicknamed Mufti ath-Thaqalayn (The Mufti for Humans and Jinn), issued a fatwaa allowing a Hanafi man to marry a Shaafi'i woman, because "her position is like that of the People of the Book"!  This implies - and implied meanings are acceptable to them - that the reverse case is not allowed, i.e. a Hanafi woman marrying a Shaafi'i man, just as a Muslim woman cannot marry a Jew or Christian?!!
These two examples, out of many, are enough to illustrate to anyone intelligent the evil effects of the differing of the later generations and their insistence upon it, unlike the differing of the earlier generations (the Salaf), which did not have any adverse effect on the Ummah. Because of this, the latter are exempt from the verses prohibiting division in the Deen, unlike the later generations. May Allaah guide us all to the Straight Path.
Further, how we wish that the harm caused by such differing be limited to among themselves and not extend to the other peoples being given da'wah, for then it would not be that bad, but it is so sad when they allow it to reach the non-believers in many areas around the world, and their differing obstructs the entry of people in large numbers into the Deen of Allaah! The book Zalaam min al-Gharb by Muhammad al-Ghazaali (p. 200) records the following incident,"It so happened during a conference held at the University of Princeton in America that one of the speakers raised a question, one which is a favourite of the Orientalists and the attackers of Islaam: 'Which teachings do the Muslims advance to the world in order to specify the Islaam towards which they are inviting? Is it Islamic teachings as understood by the Sunnis? Or is it as understood by the Imaami or Zaidi Shee'ahs? Moreover, all of these are divided further amongst themselves, and further, some of them believe in limited progression in thought, while others believe obstinately in fixed ideas.'
The result was that the inviters to Islaam left those being invited in confusion, for they were themselves utterly confused." 
In the Preface to Hadiyyah as-Sultaan ilaa Muslimee Bilaad Jaabaan by 'Allaamah Sultaan al-Ma'soomi - (رحمه الله) -, the author says,A query was posed to me by the Muslims from Japan, from the cities of Tokyo and Osaka in the far east, "What is the actual Deen of Islaam? What is a Madhhab? Is it necessary for one ennobled by the Deen of Islaam to adhere to one of the four Madhhabs? That is, should he be Maaliki, Hanafi, Shaafi'i or Hanbali, or is it not necessary?"
This was because of a major differing, a filthy dispute, had occured here, when a number of groups of Japanese intellectuals wanted to enter into the Deen of Islaam, and be ennobled by the nobility of Eeman. When they proposed this to some Muslims present in Tokyo, some people from India said, "It is best that they choose the Madhhab of Abu Haneefah, for he is the Lamp of the Ummah"; some people from Indonesia (Java) said, "No, they should be Shaafi'i!" So when the Japanese heard these statements, they were extremely perplexed and were thrown off their original purpose. Hence the issue of the Madhhabs became a barrier in the path of their accepting Islaam!!
Others have the idea that,
"What we invite to, of following the Sunnah and not accepting the views of the Imaams contrary to it, means to completely abandon following their views and benefiting from their opinions and ijtihaad."
Answer: This idea is as far as can be from the truth - it is false and obviously flawed, as is clearly evident from our previous discussion, all of which suggests otherwise. All that we are calling to is to stop treating the Madhhab as a Deen, placing it in the position of the Qur'aan and the Sunnah, such that it is referred to in the case of dispute or when extracting a new judgment for unexpected cirumstances, as the so-called jurists of this age do when setting new rules for personal matters, marriage, divorce, etc, instead of referring to the Qur'aan and the Sunnah to distinguish the right from the wrong, the truth from falsehood - all of this on the basis of their "Differing is a mercy" and their idea of pursuing every concession, ease and convenience! How fine was the saying of Sulaiman at-Taymi - (رحمه الله):
"Were you to accept the concessions of every scholar, In you would gather every evil."
Related by Ibn 'Abdul Barr in Jaami' Bayaan al-'Ilm (2/91- 91), who said after it,
"There is ijmaa' (consensus of opinion) on this: I know of no contrary view."
All this pursuing of concessions for the sake of it is what we reject, and it agrees with ijmaa', as you see.
As for referring to the Imaams' views, benefiting from them, and being helped by them in understanding the truth where they have differed and there is no text in the Qur'aan and the Sunnah, or when there is need for clarification, we do not reject it. In fact, we enjoin it and stress upon it, for there is much benefit expected in this for whoever treads the path of being guided by the Qur'aan and the Sunnah. 'Allaamah Ibn 'Abdul Barr - (رحمه الله) - says (2/182),
"Hence, my brother, you must preserve the fundamentals and pay attention to them. You should know that he who takes care over preserving the sunnahs and the commandments stated in the Qur'aan, considers the views of the jurists to assist him in his ijtihaad, open up different angles of approach and explain sunnahs which carry different possible meanings, does not blindly follow the opinion of anyone of them the way the Sunnah should be followed without analysis, nor ignores what the scholars themselves achieved in preserving and reflecting on the sunnahs, but follows them in discussion, understanding and analysis, is grateful to them for their efforts through which they have benefited him and alerted him about various points, praises them for their correct conclusions, as in the majority of cases, but does not clear them of errors just as they did not clear themselves: such is the pursuer of knowledge who is adhering to the way of the pious predecessors; such is the really fortunate and truly guided; such is the follower of the Sunnah of his Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم), and the guidance of the Companions (رضي الله عنهم).
But he who refrains from analysis, forsakes the method we have mentioned, disputes the sunnahs with his opinion and desires to accommadate them only where his own view allows: such a one is straying and leading others astray. Further, he who is ignorant of all we have mentioned, and plunges carelessly into giving verdicts without knowledge: such a one is even more blind, and on a path more astray."
There exists another common misconception among muqallideen which bars them from practising the Sunnah which it is apparent to them that their Madhhab is different to it in that issue:
They think that practising that sunnah entails faulting the founder of the Madhhab. To them, finding fault means insulting the Imaam; if it is not allowed to insult any individual Muslim, how can they insult one of their Imaams?
Answer: This reasoning is totally fallacious, and borne of not understanding the Sunnah; otherwise, how can an intelligent Muslim argue in such a way?!
The Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله علیه وسلم) himself said,
When the one making a judgment strives his outmost and arrives at the correct result, he has two rewards; but if he judges, striving his utmost and passes the wrong judgment, he has one reward. 
This hadeeth refutes the above argument and explains lucidly and without any obscurity that if someone says, "So-and-so was wrong", its meaning under the Sharee'ah is "So-and-so has one reward." So if he is rewarded in the eyes of the one finding fault, how can you accuse the latter of insulting him?! There is doubt that this type of accusation is baseless and anyone who makes it must retract it: otherwise it is he who is insulting Muslims, not just ordinary individuals among them, but their great Imaams among the Companions, Successors the subsequent Mujtahid Imaams and others. This is because we know for sure that these illustrious personalities used to fault and refute each other ; is it reasonable to say, "They used to insult each other"? No! In fact, it is authentically-reported that the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله علیه وسلم) himself faulted Abu Bakr (radi-Allaahu 'anhu) in his interpretation of a man's dream, saying to him,
"You were right in some of it and wrong in some of it" 
So did he (صلى الله علیه وسلم) insult Abu Bakr by these words?!
One of the astonishing effects this misconception has on its holders is that it prevents them from following the Sunnah when it is different to their Madhhab, since to them practising it means insulting the Imaam, whereas following him, even when contrary to the Sunnah, means respecting and loving him! Hence they insist on following his opinion to escape from this supposed disrespect.
These people have forgotten - I am not saying: ... pretended to forget - that because of this notion, they have landed in something far worse than that from which they were fleeing. It should be said to them,
"If to follow someone means that you are respecting him, and to oppose him means that you are insulting him, then how do you allow yourselves to oppose the example of the Prophet (صلى الله علیه وسلم) and not follow it, preferring to follow the Imaam of the Madhhab in a path different to the Sunnah, when the Imaam is not infallible and insulting him is not Kufr?! If you interpret opposing the Imaam as insulting him, then opposing the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله علیه وسلم) is more obviously insulting him; in fact, it is open Kufr, from which we seek refuge with Allaah!"
If this is said to them, they cannot answer to it, by Allaah, except one retort which we hear time and time again from some of them:
"We have left this sunnah trusting in the Imaam of the Madhhab, and he was more learned about the Sunnah than us."
Our answer to this is from many angles, which have already been discussed at length in this Introduction. This is why I shall briefly limit myself to one approach, a decisive reply by the permission of Allaah. I say:
"The Imaam of your Madhhab is not the only one who was more learned about the Sunnah than you: in fact, there are dozens, nay hundreds, of Imaams who too were more knowledgeable about the Sunnah than you. Therefore, if an authentic sunnah happens to differ from your Madhhab, and it was taken by one of these other Imaams, it is definitely essential that you accept this sunnah in this circumstance. This is because your above-mentioned argument is of no use here, for the one opposing you will reply, 'We have accepted this Sunnah trusting in our Imaam, who accepted it' - in this instance, to follow the latter Imaam is preferable to following the Imaam who has differed from the Sunnah."
This is clear and not confusing to anyone, Allaah Willing.
Because of all of the above, I am able to say:
Since this book of ours has collected the authentic sunnahs reported from the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله علیه وسلم) about the description of his Prayer, there is no excuse for anyone to not act on it, for there is nothing in it which the scholars have unanimously rejected, as they would never do. In fact, in every instance several of them have adopted the authentic sunnah; any one of them who did not do so is excused and rewarded once, because the text was not conveyed to him at all, or it was conveyed but in such a way that to him it did not constitute proof, or due to other reasons which are well-known among the scholars. However, those after him in front of whom the text is firmly established have no excuse for following his opinion; rather, it is obligatory to follow the infallible text.
This message has been the purpose of this Introduction. Allaah, Mighty and Sublime, says,
"O you who believe! Give your response to Allaah and His Messenger when he calls you to that which will give you life, and know that Allaah comes in between a man and his heart, and it is He to whom you shall all be gathered." 
Allaah says the Truth; He shows the Way; and He is the Best to Protect and the Best to Help. May Allaah send prayers and peace on Muhammad, and on his family and his Companions. Praise be to Allaah, Lord of the Worlds.
Muhammad Naasir-ud-Deen al-Albaanee
Damascus 28/10/1389 AH
 Soorah al-Anfaal, 8:46
 Soorah ar-Room, 30:31-2
 Soorah Houd, 11:118-9
 cf. Al-Ihkaam fi Usool al-Ahkaam by Ibn Hazm, Hujjatullaah al-Baalighah by al-Dehlawi, & the latter's essay dealing specifically with this issue, 'Iqd al-Jeed fi Ahkaam al-Ijtihaad wat-Taqleed.
 See Faid al-Qadeer by al-Manaawi (1/209) or Silsilah al-Ahaadeeth ad-Da'eefah (1/76, 77)
 Ibn 'Abdul Barr in Jaami' Bayaan al-'Ilm (2/81-2)
 ibid. (2/82, 88-9)
 ibid. (2/83-4)
 ibid (2/89)
 cf. Al-Intiqaa' by Ibn 'Abdul Barr (41), Kashf al-Mughatta fi Fadl al-Muwatta' (pp. 6-7) by Ibn 'Asaakir, & Tadhkirah al-Huffaaz by Dhahabi (1/195).
 Jaami' Bayaan al-'Ilm (2/88)
 see Chapter Eight of the book, Maa Laa Yajooz min al-Khilaaf (pp. 65-72), where you will find numerous examples of what we have indicated, some of them involving scholars of Al-Azhar.
 Al-Bahr ar-Raa'iq.
 I now say: Muhammad al-Ghazaali's recent writings such as his newly-released book entitled As-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah bayna Ahl al-Hadeeth wa Ahl al-Fiqh (The Prophetic Sunnah between the People of Hadeeth and the People of Fiqh) have confirmed that he himself is one of those inviters to Islaam who are "themselves utterly confused"! His writings have for long betrayed his confusion, his distortion of the Sunnah, and his using his intellect to authenticate or falsify ahaadeeth, not by turning to the principles and science of Hadeeth, nor to the experts of that field; instead, whatever appeals to him, he authenticates, even if it is weak, and declares unreliable whatever is not to his liking, even if it is agreed to be authentic!
His above approach is shown most obviously in his discussion of the ahaadeeth in his previous book Fiqh as-Seerah , where he explains his methodology of accepting unreliable ahaadeeth and discarding authentic ones on the basis of the text of the hadeeth alone, from which the reader can see that the objective criticism of Hadeeth has no value in his eyes if it contradicts a "reasoned analysis", which varies enormously from person to person, for what is truth to one is falsehood to another! Thus the whole of Islaam becomes subject to personal whims, having no principles nor reference points except personal opinion; this is poles apart from the position of the early leading 'Ulamaa of Islaam,
"That the Isnaad is part of the religion; were it not for the Isnaad, people would have said whatever they wished."
His latest above-mentioned book has exposed to the people his Mu'tazilite methodology, his blatant disregard for the Imaams of Hadeeth and their efforts over the ages in serving the Sunnah, and distinguishing the genuine traditions from the unreliable ones, and his lack of appreciation of the efforts of the Imaams of Fiqh in their laying down principles and developing issues on that basis, for he takes from these and leaves from them whatever he wishes, with no consistency towards any set of principles or fundamentals!
 Bukhaari & Muslim.
 See the previous words of Imaam Muzani and Haafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali.
 Bukhaari & Muslim; see Appendix 2 for the full hadeeth.
 Soorah al-Anfaal, 8:24