[By Najeeb Qasmi]
Taqlid existed from the beginning. In the early eras people followed whoever scholar they relied on and then the scholars instructed people to adhere to the maẓhab of a particular Imam for the reasons lengthily discussed so far.
After that with the disappearance of the different Fiqhi schools followed in the early centuries except the four, the majority of the Muslims including the circle of the Muḥaddithin unanimously agreed to follow them as you shall see in the following lines that every Muḥaddith followed any of the four Imams in their legal opinions. A list of such prominent Muḥaddithin is given below:
Muḥammad ibn Isma’il al-Bukhari (d. 256 AH), the acclaimed Muḥaddith and compiler of the most authentic collection of Ḥadith known as Ṣaḥiḥ al-Bukhari was a follower of the Shafi’i school. He studied Fiqh of al-Shafi’i under his famous teacher al-Ḥumaydi. This is a historically proved fact attested by a number of reliable scholars. Shah Wali Allah of Delhi has also stated in his Al-Inṣaf: Al-Imam al-Bukhari followed the Shafi’i school in a good many number of issues though he disagreed with al-Shafi’i in some issues and followed his own judgments as a qualified mujtahid.
An acclaimed authority in the science of Ḥadith and the author of Ṣaḥiḥ Muslim, al-Imam Abu al-Ḥusayn al-Qushayri (d. 261AH) was a follower of the Shafi’i school as stated by a number of reliable scholars including the author of Kashf al-Ẓunun and Shah Wali Allah of Delhi in his Al-Inṣaf.
Imam Abu Dawud
Sulayman ibn Ash’ath al-Sjistani (d. 275), the author of Sunan Abi Dawud was a follower of the Ḥanbali school as stated by Ibn Khallikan in his history and Shah Wali Allah in his Al-Inṣaf. Moreover, Shah Abd al-’Aziz the Muḥaddith of Delhi writes in his Bistan al-Muḥaddithin: The scholars differ about the Fiqhi school Abu Dawud followed; some say he was a Shafi’i and others assert that he followed the Ḥanbali school and Allah knows the best.
In his Al-Inṣaf, Shah Wali Allah of Delhi writes about Abu ‘Isa ibn Sawrah al-Tirmidhi (d. 269), the author of Jami’ al-Tirmidhi as follows: He was a follower of the Ḥanafi school and also adhered to the school of Imam Isḥaq ibn Rahawayh. However, some scholars state that he was a follower of the Shafi’i school.
Ibn Majah and al-Darimi
Imam Ibn Majah (d. 253) and Imam al-Darimi (d. 255) both were followers of the Ḥanbali school. It is also called that they adhered to the school of Imam Isḥaq ibn Rahawayh as mentioned by Shah Wali Allah in his Al-Inṣaf.
‘Abd al-Raḥman Aḥmad al-Nasa’i (d. 303), the author of Sunan al-Nasa’i adhered to the Shafi’i school as manifest from his book Al-Manasik. Shah ‘Abd al-’Aziz writes in his Bistan al-Muḥaddithin as well as in Jami’ al-Uṣul: Al-Nasa’i was a follower of the Shafi’i school; he has compiled a book on the rituals of pilgrimage (manasik) (explaining things) according to the legal opinions (maẓhab) of Imam al-Shafi’i. Besides, Shah ‘Abd al-Ḥaqq, the Muḥaddith of Delhi also mentioned the same in his Sharḥ Sifr al-Sa’adah.
Al-Layth ibn Sa’d
Imam Layth (d. 174), one of the teachers of Imam al-Bukhari and a direct disciple of the Successors, was a follower of the Ḥanafi school as ‘Allamah al-Qasṭallani reported from Ibn Khallikan. The author of Al-Jawahir al-Muḍi’ah in the book and ‘Allamah ‘Ayni in his Sharḥ ‘Umdat al-Qari wrote: Al-Layth was a great Imam who unarguably enjoyed prominence, trustworthiness and nobility and was a follower of the school of law attributed to Imam Abu Ḥanifah as al-Qaḍi Khallikan said it and there is no one called Layth ibn Sa’d appearing in all the six Ḥadith compilations except him, quote ended.
Imam Abu Yusuf
Ya’qub ibn Ibrahim al-Ansari (d. 183 AH) the famous disciple of Imam Abu Ḥanifah was a follower of the Ḥanafi school. Ibn Khallikan writes that he followed Abu Ḥanifah in most of the issues though he had his own opinions concerning certain issues i.e. he disagreed (with the opinions of Abu Ḥanifah) in issues he formed his own opinions about by exercising Ijtihad for which he was enough qualified.
Imam Muḥammad ibn Ḥasan al-Shaybani
Imam Muḥammad (d. 187) the famous disciple of Imam Abu Ḥanifah and Imam Abu Yusuf also adhered to the Ḥanafi school. He followed Abu Ḥanifah in most of the issues though he had his own opinions concerning certain issues i.e. he disagreed (with the opinions of Abu Ḥanifah) in issues he was enough qualified to form his own opinions about them by exercising Ijtihad. The author of Kashf al-Ẓunun and Ibn Khallikan both have clearly mentioned that he was a follower of the Ḥanafi school.
Similarly, if we go through the biographies the prominent Muḥaddithin who lived after the fourth Islamic century, we will hardly find anyone who did not follow any of the prevalent schools of Fiqh. Ḥafiẓ al-Zayla’i, ‘Allamah ‘Ayni, al-Muḥaqqiq Ibn Humam, Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari among other experts of the disciplines of Ḥadith and Fiqh followed the Ḥanafi school. The great scholar of Ḥadith ‘Allamah Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr was a follower of the Maliki school of Fiqh while a number of leading authorities in Ḥadith the likes of Al-Nawawi, al-Baghawi, al-Khaṭṭabi, al-Dhahabi, al’Asqalani, al-Qasṭallani and al-Suyuṭi followed the Shafi’i school. Besides, a great number of Muḥaddithin including ‘Allamah Ibn Taymiyyah and Ḥafiẓ Ibn al Qayyim adhered to the Fiqhi school of Imam Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal.