Islam after The Prophet Mohammad PBUH.
The word ‘Caliph’ is the English form of the Arabic word ‘Khalifa,’ which is short for Khalifatu Rasulullah. The latter expression means Successor to the Messenger of Allah, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). The title ‘Khalifatu RasulAllah’ was first used for Abu Bakr, who was elected head of the Muslim community after the death of the Prophet.
The mission of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), like that of the earlier messengers of Allah, was to call people to the worship of the One True God and submission to that Only One True God. In practice, the submission to God means to obey His All-Mighty’s injunctions as given in the Holy Qur’an and as exemplified by Sunnah (the practice of the Prophet). As successor to the Prophet, the Caliph was the head of the Muslim community and his primary responsibility was to continue in the path of the Prophet. Since religion was perfected and the door of Divine revelation was closed at the death of the Prophet, the Caliph was to make all laws in accordance with the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Caliph was a ruler over Muslims but not their sovereign since sovereignty belongs to Allah alone. The Caliph was to be obeyed as long as he obeyed Allah. The Caliph was responsible for creating and maintaining conditions under which it would be easy for Muslims to live according to Islamic principles, and to see that justice was done to all. When Abu Bakr accepted the caliphate, he stated his position thus:
“The weak among you shall be strong with me until their rights have been vindicated; and the strong among you shall be weak with me until, if the Lord wills, I have taken what is due from them… Obey me as long as I obey Allah and His Messenger. When I disobey Him and His Prophet, then obey me not.”
The Rightly-Guided Caliphs (Khulfa-e-Rashideen)
Those Caliphs who truly followed in the Prophet’s foot steps are called ‘The Rightly-Guided Caliphs’ (Khulfa-e- Rashideen). They were the first four Caliphs: Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, Uthman and Ali. All four were among the earliest and closest Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him). They lived simple and righteous lives and strove hard for the religion of Allah. Their justice was impartial, their treatment of others was kind and merciful, and they were the one with the people – the first among equals. After these four, the later Caliphs assumed the manners of the kings and emperors and the true spirit of equality between the ruler and the ruled diminished to a considerable extent in the political life of Muslims.
After Khulfa-e-Rashideen, unfortunately, Muslims did not produce just and righteous caliphs. And the later caliphs did not practice Islam steadfastly as the religion demanded of them. In those politically turbulent days, Islamic teachings were undertaken by dedicated scholars. Some basic schools of thought came into being in matters of Islamic Jurisprudence. The renowned Sunni scholars of the four basic schools of thought are- Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi, and Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal. Their interpretation of the traditions of the Prophet Peace Be Upon Him (Hadith) and Quran are followed by the majority of Sunni Muslims Worldwide. They are therefore of immense importance to the correct practice of Islam. They are called Tabieens (second generation of Islam). They had met some companions of the Prophet Mohammad Peace Be Upon Him (Sahabas) and could directly relate the traditions of The Prophet PBUH (Ahadith). Imam Abu Hanifa, school of thought is widely spread in Asia (including the Indian subcontinent, the whole of Central Asia and countries like Turkey and Afghanistan). The great scholar Imam Bukhari was a follower of Imam Shafi’s school of thought
Al-Imaam al-azam Abu Hanifa’s name was Numan. His father’s name was Thabit. His grandfather’s name was Numan, too. He was the first of the four great imams of the Ahl as-Sunnah Wal Jama’ah. He was a descendant of a Persian notable. His grandfather had embraced Islam. Abu Hanifa was born in Kufa, Iraq, in 80 AH, (698 A.D.). He was one of the greatest among the Tabi’een and saw Anas ibn Malik (Radi-Allah Ta’ala ‘anhu), ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Awfa, Sahl ibn Sad as-Sa’idi and Abu al-Fadl Amir ibn Wasila, four Sahaabis (Radi-Allah ta’ala anhum). He learned ‘ilm al-fiqh from Hammad ibn Abi Sulaiman. He enjoyed the companionship of many notables of the Tabi’een, and of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (Rahmatulla aleh). Imam Abu Hanifa memorized innumerable Ahadith. He was brought up so as to become a great judge, but he became an imam al-madhhab. He had a superior and amazingly keen intellect. In ‘ilm al-fiqh, he attained an unequalled grade in a short time. His name and fame became worldwide. He was the first to codify Islamic law or jurisprudence (commonly known as Fiqh) compiled from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. He was a cloth merchant by profession, but spent both ends of the day in teaching in the mosque. He was exemplary in his conduct both as a merchant and a teacher. He was, not only, very honest in his commercial dealings, but he was very conscientious as well, to the extent that he would refuse any profit if he felt uneasy about, even if it was a legitimate one.
Abu ‘Abdullah, Malik bin Anas bin Malik bin Abu ‘Aamir AI-Asbahi (Dhi Asbah, his ninth grandfather was from one of the noblest tribes of Yemen) was the Imam of Dar Al-Hijra (Al-Madina), the Faqih of the Ummah and the leader of Ahl al-Hadeeth. He studied under more than nine hundred professors and a large number of people learnt from him, among them being Imam Ash-Shafi’ee. ABU ABDULLAH, Malik bin Anas, was born in Medina in the year 715 AD 97 H. His ancestral home was in Yemen, but his grandfather settled in Medina after embracing Islam. He received his education in Medina, which was the most important seat of Islamic learning, and where the immediate descendants of the Companions of the Holy Prophet PBUH lived. Imam Malik was highly attracted to the study of law, and devoted his entire interest to the study of Fiqh. It is said that he sought out over three hundred Sahaba (those who saw the Companions of the Holy Prophet PBUH). From them he acquired the knowledge of the Holy Prophet PBUH’s sayings, (Ahadith) – and the Holy Prophet PBUH’s Deeds, – (Sunnah). Imam Malik studied Fiqh under the guidance of nearly one hundred learned Shaikhs who were residing in the city of the Prophet PBUH at the time. Among Imam Malik’s writings is the great work entitled Kitab-al-Muwatta, which is the earliest surviving book of Islamic law and Hadith. It quotes Sayings as well as the practices according to the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet as observed by Muslims in Medina. The Muwatta of Imaam Malik has been translated to English. Imam Malik died in the year 795 AD, 177 H. at Medina and is buried in the famous al-Baqie cemetery in the city of the Prophet PBUH. Imam Malik’s followers and disciples developed a Fiqh school based on his books which came to be known as the Maliki Madhhab. Malikis are mostly found in North and West Africa, – Tunis, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt.
Abu Abdullah Muhammad Bin Idris descends from the Hashimi family of the Quaraish tribe to which Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) belongs. He was born in Gaza, Syria in 767 AD, 149 H, and became famous as Imam Shafi-ee. He lost his father early in life and was brought up by his mother in abject poverty in the city of Mecca. He spent much time among the Bedouins and acquired very great knowledge of Arabic poetry. At the age of twenty, he went to Medina and remained there as a student of Imam Malik till the later’s death in 795 AD. He also came into contact with other learned men from whom he acquired knowledge of the Holy Qur’an and the Traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him. Imam Shafi-ee possessed a very sharp memory and knew the whole of Imam Malik’s Muwatta by heart. During the time of Sultan Salah ud din Ayyubi (Saladin) born 532 H (A.D. 1137-38) died 587 H (A.D. 1193), the Shafi-ee doctrine was the most prominent in Egypt, and to this day the Imam of the Al-Azhar Masjid Cairo, is always a Shafi-ee and the Shafi-ee Madhhab is industriously studied along with that of the other three schools of the Sunnis. Imam Shafiee died in the year 820 AD in Egypt.
Ahmed bin Muhammad Hanbal known as ibn Hanbal was born in the city of Baghdad in the year 780 AD, 166 H. He studied various subjects in his hometown and traveled extensively in quest of knowledge. He was chiefly interested in acquiring knowledge of Ahadith- traditions of the Holy Prophet PBUH – and traveled extensively through Iraq, Syria, Arabia and other countries of the Middle East studying religion and collecting traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad PBUH. Returning home from his travels which occupied several years of his early life, he took lessons from Imam Shafiee in the subject of Islamic law (Fiqh). He was deeply devoted to the traditional views on religious subjects and opposed innovation of any kind. He died in Baghdad in the year 855 (241 A.H.) at the age of 75 years.
Among the works of Imam ibn Hanbal is the great encyclopaedia of Traditions called Musnad, compiled by his son from his lectures and amplified by supplements – containing over twenty eight thousand traditions of The Prophet PBUH. His other works include Kitab-us-Salaat, on the Discipline of Prayer and Kitab-us-Sunnah, on the Traditions of the Prophet PBUH. The above books form the main, the Hanbali School of law. Although Imam ibn Hanbal too, did not establish a Fiqh system of his own. His decisions were so highly regarded by his disciples that they began to systematize his legal teachings during his lifetime and his ideas gained recognition by the Sunni sect as one of the four authoritative Madhhab the Hanbali. In the world of Islam, the Hanbalites to-day represents the smallest group of the four Sunni Madhhabs. They are mostly confined to the Middle East countries. In the 18th century Christian-era, the Hanbali system received a vigorous support from the Wahhabi movement founded by Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab (1703-1787 AD) who followed the Hanbali school of thought. The leadership of the Wahhabi movement today is in the hands of the Saudi dynasty who are the autocratic rulers of Hijaz, in the Arabian Peninsula.
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