Studies in Hadith and Islamic Law

The Dynamics of Practicing on Hadīth


Translator’s Preface

The following is a dialogue that took place between ‘Allāmah Zāhid al-Kawtharī (d. 1371) and Shaykh Taqī al-Dīn al-images (2)Hilālī (d.1407) regarding the status of lifting ones hands (raf’ al-yadayn) in prayer in light of hadīth. The purpose of translating this dialogue is not to exhaust all the existing evidence of a particular view or to prove the superiority of one practice over the other. Rather, it is to point out the flaw of adopting a superficial approach when dealing with matters of jurisprudence, which at times may appear to contradict authentic hadiths due to shallow knowledge of the dynamics of Islāmic sciences. To make the article more-reader friendly, an idiomatic translation was adopted in many places.[1]

Muntasir Zaman


Al-Kawtharī on the Dynamics of Practicing on Hadīth

Translated by Muntasir Zamān

Many years ago, a Moroccan scholar with the nisbah of al-Hilālī[2] visited me. He claimed to have become a Salafī Sunni after being a Mālikī Tijānī, expressing great joy as if he was saved from deviance and guided to the right path. He surprised me by saying, “In all the lands, the ummah has gone astray by following the opinions of men and abandoning practice upon hadith. There are no Islāmic countries except you will find therein those who practice upon hadith despite being persecuted by those who blindly follow the opinions of men. Your country (Turkey), on the other hand, is an exception, as we have not heard of anyone among them who will cast the opinions of men aside and hold firmly to hadith. However, I heard that you practice upon hadith and are from the people of hadīth. I was so pleased to hear this that felt it necessary to visit you.”

He fervently persisted in expressing his view while I remained silent. I thought for a moment, “Should I leave him with this good thought about me, or should I upset him and voice my opinion regarding what he is saying?” I realized the first option was dishonest, which is unbecoming of a Muslim, and the second option was well-wishing; and religion is well-wishing. Thus, I told him: O teacher, I feel you are exceeding the bounds by accusing groups from the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamā’ah of abandoning hadith whereas to the best of my knowledge, there is no group among them who will not sacrifice everything to practice upon hadith. However, correct understanding of hadith and detecting hidden flaws therein are not simple tasks. Accordingly, it is incorrect to accuse them of abandoning (hadith) without mentioning which hadiths they abandoned.

I then expressed my ability to debate him about any legal issue he chooses from any school of thought he chooses which definitely goes against hadith. I asked him to present one legal issue from the schools of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamā’ah, which according to him clearly contradicts hadith. I uttered this statement unintentionally. My unfortunate visitor was unable to choose an issue that would render me incapable of answering; instead, he said, “Here is the issue of lifting the hands in ruku’. There are authentic narrations in support of this, yet the Hanafis do not practice upon it.” I responded that they are not alone: Mālik,[3] the Imām of Madīnah, and Sufyān al-Thawrī,[4] the competitor of Imām Abū Hanīfah in Kūfah, also hold this opinion. The only authentic narration regarding lifting the hands is the narration of Ibn ‘Umar; the hidden flaws of the other narrations are explained in detail in al-Jawhar al-Naqī,[5] Nasb al-Rāyah,[6] and other works.[7]

As for the narration of Ibn ‘Umar on lifting hands, based on the transmission of Mujāhid[8] and ‘Abd al-‘Azīz al-Hadramī,[9] he himself did not practice upon it. When a Sahābī narrates a hadith and does not practice upon it, it is regarded as a defect in the narration according to expert scholars from the Salaf. This is not the principle of the Hanifīs alone as explained in detail in Sharh ‘Ilal al-Tirmidhī of Ibn Rajab.[10] As for Ibn Mas’ūd, the narrators are unanimous that he transmitted the narration of not lifting the hand and practiced upon it. The narration is, “Shall I not perform for you the prayer of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon)? Thus, he prayed and did not lift his hands except in the first instance (takbirat al-iftitāh)” as narrated in the Sunans of al-Nasa’ī,[11] Abū Dāwūd,[12] and al-Tirmidhī.[13] The narrations in this regard are plenty, among which is the narration of al-Barā’ in Sunan Abī Dāwūd, “When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon) used to commence his prayer he would lift his hands close to his ears. Thereafter, he would not repeat this.”[14]

The visitor said, “The words ‘Thereafter, he would not repeat this’ has been solely transmitted by Yazīd ibn Abī Ziyād who suffered from a memory disorder.” I said, “There are those who hold this opinion. However, he (Yazīd ibn Abī Ziyād) is corroborated by al-Hakam ibn ‘Utaybah and ‘Īsā ibn Abī Laylā, both of whom are reliable transmitters, as narrated by Abū Dāwūd,[15] al-Tahāwī,[16] and al-Bayhaqī.[17] Moreover, the narrator from Yazīd (ibn Abī Ziyād), Sharīk, has been corroborated by Hushaym,[18] Ismā’īl ibn Zakariyyā,’[19] and Yūnus.[20] Therefore, for Abū Dāwūd to point out a flaw in this narration based on infirād (isolated transmission) is a mistake exposed in al-Jawhar al-Naqī[21] and other works. I showed him texts from al-Bināyah of al-Badr al-‘Aynī and the refutation of al-Itqāni[22] against al-Subkī. I told him that there are clear proofs therein for not lifting the hands, although he (al-Itqānī) exceeded the bounds by relying on an anomalous transmission[23] in al-Lu’lu’iyyāt.[24]

I then said: Perhaps now you have realized that not lifting the hands does not go against authentic and explicit narrations. Rather, the evidence is nearly equal on both sides: lifting the hands and not lifting them. Despite his extremity in legal issues, Ibn al-Qayyim is inclined towards this view in some of his books. Accordingly, you are more extreme by regarding not lifting the hands as the clearest opposition (to hadith) whereas evidence demands having the option to choose. Ibn Abī Shaybah did not even mention this among the issues he felt Abū Hanīfah went against hadith, whereas you have gone to such an extreme.

He said, “I am currently trying to publish this chapter of Ibn Abī Shaybah in India.” I told him, “Instead of publishing a specific chapter due to certain motives,[25] it would be better to publish the entire Musannaf, which would be a praiseworthy service.”

He understood that I was not among those who practice upon hadith as his companions from the likes of laymen who practice upon the first hadith they find without analyzing it in light of all the evidence present in that subject, searching for them, and studying the inherited practice in the lands of the Muslims from generation to generation. Had this advocate for the practice of hadith and the abandonment of inherited jurisprudence been just, he would have opted for the view of choosing between lifting the hands and not lifting them in view of the proofs of both parties. He would have terminated the debate instead of being biased against the view of not lifting, which as we have explained is possibly more cogent in terms of evidence.


[1] This dialogue was extracted from “al-Nukat al-Tarīfah fī al-Tahadduth ‘an Rudūd Ibn Abī Shaybah ‘alā Abī Hanīfah.” All the footnotes in this article are from the translator.

[2] His name is Shaykh Taqī al-Dīn al-Hilālī, see al-Imām Ibn Mājah wa Kitābuhū al-Sunan, p.317.

[3] Al-Mudawwanah, vol.1, p.165.

[4] Al-Tirmidhī, al-Sunan, vol.1, p.318.

[5] Ibn al-Turkamānī, al-Jawhar al-Naqī, vol.2, pp.68-76.

[6] Al-Zayla’ī, Nasb al-Rāyah, vol.1, pp.407-418.

[7] For example, Nayl al-Farqadayn of ‘Allāmah Anwar Shāh al-Kashmīrī.

[8] Ibn Abī Shaybah, al-Musannaf, vol.2, p.417; al-Tahāwī, Sharh Ma’ānī al-Āthār, vol.1, p.225.

[9] Al-Shaybānī, al-Muwatta’, vol.1, p.396.

[10] Ibn Rajab, Sharh ‘Ilal al-Tirmidhī, vol.2, pp.796-801.

[11] Al-Nasa’ī, al-Sunan al-Sughrā, vol.2, vol.420.

[12] Abū Dāwūd, al-Sunan, vol.1, p.608.

[13] Al-Tirmidhī, al-Sunan, vol.1, p.317.

[14] Abū Dāwūd, al-Sunan, vol.1, p.608.

[15] Abū Dāwūd, al-Sunan, vol.1, p.609.

[16] Al-Tahāwī, Sharh Ma’ānī al-Āthār, vol.1, p.224.

[17] Al-Bayhaqī, al-Sunan al-Kubrā, vol.2, p.77.

[18] Ibn ‘Adī, al-Kāmil, vol.9. p.165.

[19] Al-Dāraqutnī, al-Sunan, vol.2, p.49.

[20] Al-Bayhaqī in al-Khilāfiyyāt as mentioned in al-Jawhar al-Naqī, vol.2, p.76. The name mentioned therein is Isrā’īl ibn Yūnus.

[21] Ibn al-Turkamānī, al-Jawhar al-Naqī, vol.2, p.76.

[22] Amīr Kātib al-‘Amīd ibn Amīr Ghāzī al-Itqānī al-Fārābī, the author of Ghāyat al-Bayān and al-Shāmil. He was born in 685 AH and passed away in 758 AH. For more details, refer to al-Lakhnawī’s work on the biographical entries of Hanafī scholars entitled, al-Fawā’id al-Bahiyyah, p.50.

[23] Al-Itqānī, Muqaddimah fī Tark Raf’ al-Yadayn, manuscript p.2 (ق1/ب). ‘Allāmah al-Kawtharī is referring to the anomalous transmission from Imām Abū Hanīfah that he states, “The prayer of one who lifts his hands therein is invalid.” Al-Lakhnawi has criticized this transmission in depth; see al-Fawā’id al-Bahiyyah, p.217. I would like to express my gratitude to Mufti Husain Kadodia for providing the manuscript of al-Itqānī’s treatise.

[24] The book al-Lu’lu’iyyāt was authored by Abu Mutī’ Makhūl ibn Fadl al-Nasafī (d.318 AH); see al-Dhahabī, Siyar ‘Alām al-Nubalā’, vol.15, p.33. However, the above transmission, as cited by al-Itqānī, is mentioned in another work of Makhūl al-Nasafī entitled, “al-Shu’ā’.

[25] He was trying to publish one chapter from the Musannaf of Ibn Abī Shaybah, the title of which is, “These are the narrations from the Messenger of Allāh (peace and blessings be upon him), which Imām Abū Hanīfah went against.” He did this in order to disturb the practice of the scholars of India in accordance to the madhhab of Imām Abū Hanīfah; see al-Imām Ibn Mājah wa Kitābuhu al-Sunan, p.319. ‘Allāmah al-Kawthari has penned a detailed refutation on this chapter entitled, “al-Nukat al-Tarīfah fī al-Tahadduth ‘an Rudūd Ibn Abī Shaybah ‘alā Abī Hanīfah.” As mentioned in the preface, the above dialogue was extracted from the introduction of the work in reference.

1 comment

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  • Jazak Allah khayr for translating this piece. We need more articles like this translated that show dialogue between different Sunni camps to enhance understanding not necessarily to promote partisanship. Have you considered translating some correspondence between Allama Abdul Hye Lakhnawi and Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan Bhopali?

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