By Zameelur Rahman
This link is to the fourth edition of Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwama’s brilliant book Athar al-Hadith al-Sharif fi Khtilaf al-A’immat al-Fuqaha which describes how the science of hadith impacts on the disagreements between the Fuqaha. Muhammad ‘Awwama (b. 1940), a resident of Medina of a Halabi background, is a contemporary hadith scholar and one of the major students of two important Halabi scholars of the last century, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda and Shaykh ‘Abd Allah Siraj al-Din. In this book, he has some interesting discussions, particularly on the statement of the Imams “When a hadith is sahih that is my madhhab” and how it should be understood; that some hadiths despite being sahih is not fit for practice; how often weak hadiths can inform certain rulings if not actually establish them; how variations in wordings of hadith can influence differences in rulings; the superiority of understanding over narration of hadiths and Abu Hanifa’s excellence in this; the dangers of taking shadh (isolated) opinions; the important differences between the Imams in reconciling between conflicting reports (there is a useful summary of the book on pages 193-8).
In the substance of the book, he refers to several Deobandi authors and their works, in particular Habib Kiranawi’s al-Qawa‘id fi ‘Ulum al-Fiqh, Yusuf Binnori’s Ma‘arif al-Sunan (a commentary on Jami‘ al-Tirmidhi), Zafar Ahmad al-Uthmani’s I‘la al-Sunan, al-Qawa‘id fi ‘Ulum al-Hadith and Abu Hanifa wa Ashabuhu l-Muhaddithun (which Awwama says “includes transmissions not found together anywhere else”), Anwar Shah Kashmiri’s footnotes to Nasb al-Rayah and he refers to Habib al-Rahman al-A‘zami’s help in offering some examples for one of the principles he cites which he included in this later edition of his work. He regards all of these authors and the works he mentions in high regard, designating them with superlative titles (like “Imam al-‘Asr” – the Imam of the time – for Anwar Shah Kashmiri and “Shaykhu Shuyukhina” – teacher of our teachers – for Zafar Ahmad al-‘Uthmani) and describing their books as “nafisa” (valuable) or “mawsu‘i” (encyclopaedic). In fact it might be said, from modern scholars, these Deobandi authors are his major sources in this book, with the exceptions of Allama al-Kawthari whom he cites frequently, and al-Ghumari and Muhammad Bakhit al-Muti‘i.
In the foreword to his book, while discussing endorsements, he writes:
“These short pages have received acceptance and approval from the leaders of the people of knowledge and virtue. From the most prominent of these and one whose acceptance and approval I treasure is our teacher, the great scholar, an authority of the people of knowledge, virtue, opinion and nobility in the Indian subcontinent, in particular, and among all who know him, in general, the master of hadith, Shaykh Muhammad Zakariyya al-Kandehlewi (d. 1402), Allah Almighty have mercy on him. For he was so kind as to listen to its contents page from one of his students while I was sitting in his presence [in Medina] and he became delighted thereby and said to his student “it requires reading in its entirety”. He was then so kind as to hear it completely while on his sickbed (Allah substitute the Garden for him). He then graciously provided me a dictated statement, which the reader will find shortly.” (Athar al-Hadith al-Sharif fi Khtilaf al-A’immat al-Fuqaha, 4th Edition, Muhammad Awwama, pp. 6-7)
Shaykh al-Kandehlewi’s statement is as follows:
“In Allah’s Name, Most Merciful, the Beneficent
All praise to Allah who showered us with His blessings and connected us with His favours. And prayers and peace on the chief of His creation, Muhammad, whose beauty and splendour is perfect, and whose effort and struggles is enough to admonish creation, and (prayers and peace) on his family, his companions who derived light from his speech and obtained its rays, and on those who follow them in goodness to the Day of Recompense.
Indeed Allah Almighty has placed in this Umma memorisers of the Clear Book and of the traditions of the chief of the first and the last, and He elected by His special grace from them the people of Hadith and fiqh who distinguished between the strong and weak (narrations), deduced (evidence) from the hasan and sahih (hadiths) and extracted rulings on that which they did not find a clear text by selecting what is weightier (in evidence) according to them. (This they did) after following the reports, busying the minds and spending lifetimes in understanding the nasikh (canceller) and the mansukh (cancelled) reports, and delved into the depths of language and the understanding of meanings so they were adept (in formulating) chapters and subchapters and deriving peripheral (matters) from the principle (ones). May Allah Almighty rain upon them the showers of mercy and approval and let them live a life of ease in the Gardens (of Paradise).
They had an immense rank in the application of what (apparently) contradicted, assessing what (actually) conflicted, clarifying what was unclear and expanding on what was summarised, but despite their unity in purpose and conciliation of hearts, they differed in many of the issues and rulings due to the difference in the approaches to assessing (the conflicting reports) and the methods of deducing (evidence). This difference was a natural and necessary result devoid of any reprehensibility or repulsiveness; rather it is a mercy for the Umma, as was agreed by the notable ‘ulama’. And since men are enemies of what they don’t know, those who had no feel for knowledge and understanding began to criticise the juristic Imams and spoke against them with a sharp tongue. For this reason the early and late (scholars) of (this Umma) penned books and epistles on the (underlying) causes of (these) disagreements, like Raf‘ al-Malam ‘an A’immat al-A‘lam by the great Hafiz, the insightful and critical scholar Ahmad ibn ‘Abd al-Halim ibn Taymiyya al-Harrani, and like Bidayat al-Mujtahid by Abu Walid ibn Rushd al-Qurtubi, Allah Almighty have mercy on them. I have an epistle on this subject in Urdu which I authored at the prime of my youth and I called it Ikhtilaf al-A’imma and people have attained great benefit from it, and praise is due to Allah for that.
The merit in this age (however) goes to our honourable brother the scholar Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwamah, for he delivered a valuable lecture on this subject three years ago at the Rawda University in Halab, then he made it into an independent epistle after editing (it) and concluding (it) and he called it Athar al-Hadith al-Sharif fi Khtilaf al-A’immat al-Fuqaha. And since I was unable to read it myself due to the weakness in my vision – and diseases betake humanity in old age – I heard it from one of my beloveds and found it to be very beneficial, and it, despite its brevity, contains lofty benefits and (coherently) arranges precious gems. I sought benefit in it (being read to me) and my soul was uplifted and my heart was delighted by it. It is worthy of being read by every teacher and student, for it is devoid of deviance and embellishment, and delivers (the Imams) from what (has been said) disparagingly about the rank of the Imams from the people of enmity and of deprivation.
I ask Allah Almighty to enable us and all Muslims to (do) all that He loves and pleases, and keep us alive on the religion of the one who came with light and guidance, and cause us to die on his religion which illuminates the darkness. And Allah Almighty bless the best of His creation Muhammad, his family and all his companions.
I am the needy servant,
Muhammad Zakariyya ibn Muhammad Yahya al-Kandehlewi
Medina, 1401 H”
(Athar al-Hadith al-Sharif fi Khtilaf al-A’immat al-Fuqaha, pp. 12-14)
 The English rendering of this work, Differences of The Imams, has been published by White Thread Press. (blog administrator)