We are often faced with the question: “Why do you follow Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik or Imam Shafi’i etc (rahimahumullah)?
Aren’t we supposed to follow Sayyiduna Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)?
A unique perspective
My Respected Teacher, Al-Muhaddith Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awwamah (may Allah protect him and keep him in good health, and may Allah continue to allow us to benefit from Shaykh) writes:
“It is crucial for every Muslim to know the command of Allah Ta’ala concerning all matters; salah, zakah, fasting and all other acts of worship, including monetary dealings etc.
He should not embark on any deed without understanding the rule of Shari’ah and the command of Allah concerning that deed. If he is notified (by any scholar) of the view of Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) – or any other Imam for that matter – on that issue, he should indeed accept this, but with the following frame of mind:
This is how Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) has understood the command of Allah and his Messenger (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), therefore I practice this as the way of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). My heart should be linked to Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), it should believe that these are his commands and sunnats (ways) or I abstain from certain things because he (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) has prohibited us from doing so.
(i.e, these are not rules that Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) has enforced, but merely his understanding of the way of Muhammad sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)
Shaykh writes further,
Every Muslim ought to follow the way of Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). However since the vast majority of us don’t have the expertise to fully comprehend the sacred texts of Shari’ah (Quran and Sunnah) we therefore trust those who are qualified (The Imams of the four schools of thought) Therefore Muslims refer to themselves as: Hanafi, Shafi’e, Maliki and Hambali. The reality is that a muslim is a “Muhammadi” (A follower of Muhammad sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and in following him, he accepts the understanding of these Imams.
(Extracted from his book: Ma’alim Irshadiyyah, pg.377)