Book Review: The Madinan Way


At first glance, this tiny book may deceive the reader into thinking the subject matter inside is light and not weighty. However, upon opening the book and delving deep, the reader will have a greater understanding of what is so great about the People of Madinah.

One must understand the background of the book and what triggered Imam Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah (661-728 AH) to write the book. He was asked about the practices of the people in the time of Madinah and taking their example.

Imam Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah, who is a mujtahid murajjih, or level three mujtahid, explained the soundness of their methods, the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them and all that they represented.

However the reader, when explaining that Imam Malik ibn Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, and his school are the closest to the truth, he was saying this while comparing Imam Malik to his own Imam, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, may Allah be pleased with both of them.

Imam Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah said, “Whoever makes himself familiar with the foundational principles of Imam Ahmad and explicit statements will soon know the preferred opinion in his madhhab in most of the issues.

Furthermore, if he has a keen and observant eye in looking at the evidences of the Revealed Law he will know the preferred opinion in the Revealed Law.

Imam Ahmad was more knowledgeable than anyone besides him in the Book, the Sunnah, words of the Companions and their Followers in righteousness. It is due to this that one will almost never find a statement present from him that contradicts an explicit text. This is not the case for others besides him.

Similarly, one will almost never find a weak position from him in most cases except that they will find in his madhhab another statement from him that agrees with the stronger position.” Majmu`a Fatawa, vol.20, pp. 228-229.

What the Imam is stating is indeed true. Imam Ahmad, may Allah be pleased with him, as the greatest of the tabi`in, memorised all of the hadith literature (1 million ahadith) and so he would often give between 2-4 rulings on a subject due to variant wordings in hadith and also possible other meanings conveyed.

Thus one can never say that there was a hadith that Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal didn’t know once he memorised the 1 million. It is not possible to have missed a hadith if you memorised them all. However it is possible that you might have a mistake in understanding.

But as Imam Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah stated above, with that being the case, one could always find another ruling from him that was in agreement and correct. This is but one of the many wonders of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, may Allah be pleased with him, and his wisdom.

Due to the fact that the Hanbalis are both people that work in fiqh and also theologians, they usually do not see their way as a madhhab in the same capacity as other schools. They merely see it as “application of the Sunnah.” Al-`Urf wal-`Adah, the Bedouin law code that still holds sway in sections of Sinai, is largely based upon Zad ul-Mustaqni` and Dalil ut-Talib.

The Bedu refer to these authors but refer to them as “our scholars,” “the Shaikhs of the Ummah,” and so forth. They tend to see themselves as possessing this primordial Sunnah and other ways being spin offs or divergences of that.

Compare this with the statement of one Imam, “From Ahmad (the Prophet) to Ahmad (the Imam), there is no other Ahmad (the Prophet) or one better than Ahmad (the Imam).”

The book lays the heavy premises of how close the Malikis and Hanbalis are in the worship and also the leniency in transactions. This was borne out when Imam `Abdur-Rahman ibn Battah, may Allah be pleased with him, visited Andalus, the first Hanbali to be invited to act as rector at one of the seminaries.

The Maliki hosts, until seeing him fasten his hands in prayer, believed him to be a Maliki in the capacity and methods he used to answer questions. Even in measurements of food, liquid, grain and the like, the Hanabilah defer to the Hijaz first and judge all other measurements using that.

Thus when the Faqih, the Mujtahid, the Usuli, Musa al-Qaddumi (d. 1336 AH), decided to write a universal conversion table for all measuring systems throughout the globe next to those of the Muslims, he used Hijaz measurements of the early era as the basis of his decisions.

How could he do differently when the Shaikh of our Shaikhs, Shaikh Hasan ash-Shatti (d. 1274 AH) did the same thing and so did the others? The Madinan Way is also a heavy blow being dealt to the utility or debated utility of immediate resort to ijtihad before viewing all texts.

In the general principles, Imams Ahmad ibn Hanbal (in Basrah and Baghdad) and Malik ibn Anas (in the Hijaz) belong to a principle of thinking among the Vast Majority of the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, called, Ahl ul-Hadith or Ashab ul-Hadith.

These scholars with that particularly understanding would take – in the absence of any explicitly worded text in the Revelation (Book and Sunnah) and Consensus – all other texts from Companions and their students first before making qiyas and giving their rulings.

Those of this position would rather take a hadith that had some defects in the chain of transmission than resort to qiyas or immediate ijtihad. This is in distinction to Imams Abu Hanifah al-Kufi and Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi`ii (who in early life was influenced by Ahl ul-Hadith but later adopted a different approach), having the thinking of Ahl ur-Ra’ii.

This method was to take a certain number of hadith and build a frame work and to make Usul (foundational principles) from them. This was at work in Imam ash-Shafi`ii’s Ar-Risalah, Al-Umm and other documentation.

These particular scholars would make ijtihad and qiyas using a number of a hadith on a subject to make rulings and derive principles. They were faqih muhaddith scholars. They were both muhaddith and faqih, but their great emphasis was deriving principles.

It is for this reason that we see the two Imams Ash-Shafi`ii and Abu Hanifah principally leaving behind methodology books (as their thinking was ar-Ra’ii) while Imams Ahmad and Malik left behind hadith books (as they were muhaddith faqih scholars), which were to be used in all cases and held as more important than the principles.

The dispute would run in this capacity. On a particular topic, Ahl ul-Hadith would gather all available texts on the subject and then start to build methods. Ahl ur-Ra’ii would build methods using not all hadith but some of them and make foundations.

The criticism of Ahl ul-Hadith is that if you take that approach, when other ahadith come to you that might contradict the principles you built, you might misinterpret or reject them due to your own created principles rather than let all the documentation lead you to the principles.

A reader giving a thorough examination to The Madinan Way will find this and more in its’ profound but deceptively brief 90 pages. The thirteen chapters in this fatwa, although abridged (this was unfortunately not mentioned in the pages or on the cover of the book) are a treasure chest of delights for the eyes of the reader.

The first chapter covers the excellence of Madinah and its’ people. This chapter starts with the hadith about the first three generations and their excellence and swiftly shifts gears to discuss in the second chapter the fact that any Consensus narrated form the people of Madinah is counted as a proof, which is not the case for other cities.

Chapter three introduces the reader to the fact that all other cities were in the later generations, inundated with cults, i.e. Al-Kufah had the Murji’ah and the Shi`ah, from Al-Basrah came the Qadariyyah and Mu`tazilah, Sham had the Qadariyyah and Nasibiyyah and the Jahmiyyah emerged from Khurasan with the exception of Madinah, which held on until the fourth/fifth generation.

Even with the problems that would beset Madinah regarding the cults, Imam Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah al-Harrani, may Allah have mercy on him, rightly pointed out that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, prophesied that the False Messiah would not enter Madinah.

The four levels of Consensus are discussed in chapter four and special attention is given to the fact that Imam Malik ibn Anas, when narrating what he saw, was standing upon mass transmitted proofs every time. Indeed this was the very reason that led to the friendly dispute that occurred in a meeting between Imam Malik ibn Anas and Imam Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi`ii, may Allah be pleased with both of them.

In one of the disputes, Imam Malik ibn Anas said that “one thousand from one thousand is better than one from one.” When the issue came to a head, Imam Ash-Shafi`ii calmly replied, “When the hadith is authentic, that is my madhhab.” To Imam Malik, the presence of a practice different to a singular hadith was proof that that practice took more precedence than the hadith in question.

It is truly unfortunate that some use the statement of Imam Ash-Shafi`ii to advance a true canard of an argument that is not even connected to what these people advance. In that very chapter, Imam Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah ends his research in this area, stating:

“This subject is too large to pursue. If we were to deal in full with the excellence of the scholars of the people of Madina and the soundness of their basic premises, the discussion would be very lengthy indeed.” The Madinan Way, pp. 23-24

The fifth chapter opens with praise for Imam Malik ibn Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, and the soundness of the methods of the people of Madinah. The Muwatta’ is also accorded attention with regard to its’ collection, ahadith therein and the application of rulings that made it a unique book.

The spread of Maliki fiqh to Al-Andalus is researched in chapter six and the rank of the principles of Maliki fiqh and Imam Malik’s sagacity and bearing in Islam are given special mention.

Things obtained through unlawful means and the means to avoid this according to the principles of Imam Malik are presented to the reader in a concise yet profound way. At this point, the reader should have formed a broad outline of an amazing city, a noble people and a great Imam.

Unlawful business behaviour and prescribed conditions take the readers mind through chapters eight and nine. Let the reader examine carefully as these are practical principles that can be implemented in your life.

Marriage – with regard to its’ conditions, nullifiers and deficits is mentioned in full and given careful study. The tools and machinery of Usul ul-Fiqh can be easily observed by the reader and one can feel proud to have had such noble scholars in this Ummah.

Judgements and Punishments for the sake of public safety and protection of the Revealed Law are examined in an overture from Imam Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah to show how close the Imams Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Malik ibn Anas, may Allah be pleased with both of them, are in reality.

The final chapter deals with the rulings surrounding fighting the cults, general strife and resolving civil disputes and uprisings. This would be particular relevant given the time period that Imam Taqi ud-Din Ibn Taymiyyah was in and the number of wars he had some participation in before his death.

The final analysis of the writer is that the text, the Madinan Way, is a worthy effort that should be given a careful read by every single interested believer who would like to understand the methods of the first three generations in a simple and concise way yet also have some profound insights.

It is indeed the hope of the writer that readers will take from it all the benefits to offer and that maybe in the future someone will translate the entire ruling into English so that the Slaves of Allah can receive double the reward and double the blessings.

Was-Salaam,

Brother in Islam,

Al-Hajj

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