The Distinguishing Signs of Ahlus-Sunnah
بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم
Abu Uthman as-Saaboonee (d.449H) رحمه الله said, “And one of the distinguishing signs of Ahlus-Sunnah is their love for the Imams of the Sunnah, its Scholars, its helpers, and its close allies, and their hatred for the leaders of innovation who call to the Hell-Fire and who direct their associates and companions to the home of torment destruction. Allaah, the Sublime, has adorned the hearts of Ahlus-Sunnah, and the light of their hearts with love for the Scholars of the Sunnah, as a bounty from Him, Whose Magnificence is perfect and Sublime.
Al-Hakim Abu ‘AbduLlah al-Haafidh, may Allaah make him and us reside in Paradise, informed Us: Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Ibn al-Fadl al-Muzakkee narrated to us: Ahmad ibn Salamah (said): Abu Rajaa Qutayhah ibn Sa’eed read his Kitab-ul-Iman to us, and at the end of it there occurred, “So when you see a man loving Sufyan ath-Thawri, Malik ibn Anas, al-Awza’i, Shu’bah, Ibn al-Mubarak, Abul-Ahwas Shareek, Waki’, Yahya ibn Sa’eed and ‘Abdur-Rahman ibn Mahdi, then know that he is a person of the Sunnah.” Ahmad ibn Salamah رحمه الله said, “Then I added, underneath that in my script, ‘…and Yahya (ibn Yahya), Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Ishaq (ibn Ibrahim) ibn Raahawaaih…’ When we stopped at this passage (of the book) the people of Nisabur looked at us and he (Qutayhah) said, “Those people hate Yahya ibn Yahya.” So we said, “What is Yahya ibn Yahya?” He said, “A righteous man, Imaam of the Muslims. And Ishaq ibn Ibrahim is an Imaam (of the Muslims) – and in my estimation Ahmad ibn Hanbal is greater than all of those whom I have mentioned.”
And I met those whom Qutayhah رحمه الله mentioned (about whom he said) that whoever loves them then he is a person of the Sunnah, from among the Scholars of Ahlul- Hadeeth, whose model they emulate, by whose guidance they seek to guide themselves and in whose group and rank they count themselves. And in following the narrations (and sayings of these scholars) they find (i.e., are led to) another group of (righteous scholars), amongst them: Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi’i, Sa’eed ibn Zubayr, az-Zuhri, ash-Sha’bi, at- Taimee and those after them such as al-Laith ibn Sa’d (al-Misree), al-Awza’i, Sufyan ibn ‘Uyaynah al-Hilaaiee, Hammaad ibn Salamah, Hammed ibn Zaid, Yunus ibn ‘Ubaid, Ayyub as-Sakhtiyaanee Ibn ‘Awn and those similar to them. Then after them, the likes of Yazid ibn Harun (al-Waasitee), ‘Abdur-Razzaq (ibn Hammam as-San’aanee), Jarir ibn ‘Abdul-Hameed (ad-Dabbee) and then those after them such as Muhammad ibn Yahya adh-Dhuhlee Muhammad ibn Isma’il al-Bukhari, Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj al-Qushayree, Abu Dawud as-Sijistani, Abu Zur’ah ar-Razi, Abu Hatim (ar-Razi) and his son, and Muhammad ibn Muslim ibn Waarah (ar-Razi), Muhammad ibn Aslam at-Toosee, (Abu Sa’eed) ‘Uthman ibn Sa’eed ad-Darimi (as-Sijzi) and (Imaam) Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn Khuzaimah (an- Nisaburi) the one who used to be called ‘Imaam of the Scholars,’ and al-Muqirri was the Imaam of the Scholars during his era arid time, and Abu Ya’qub Ishaq ibn Isma’il al-Bustee, (al-Hasan ibn Sufyan al-Faswi) — and my grandfather by way of my father, Abu Sa’eed Yahya ibn Mansoor az-Zahid ah-Harawi and (Abu Hatim) ‘Adi ibn Hamdawaih as-Saaboonee and his two sons, the Swords of the Sunnah, ‘Abdullah as-Saaboonee and Abu Abdullah Rahman as-Saaboonee and others besides them from the Scholars of the Sunnah, who hold fast to it, aid it, call to it and are the most gentle with and compliant to it.
And these sentences (i.e., the aforementioned aqeedah) which have been affirmed in this book constituted the ‘aqeedah of all of them. They never differed with each other about (a single matter from) it. Rather, they (unanimously) agreed upon it and it has never been established about any one of them that he was pleased with whatever opposed it).
And along with that they (unanimously) agreed with their saying about the Ahlul-Bid’ah — that they should be subdued, humiliated and disgraced, banished and driven away. That (one must) keep away from them, from those who associate with them and from those who are intimate with them. And to seek nearness to Allaah by avoiding them and fleeing from them.”
And the Ustaadh and Imaam (i.e., Abu ‘Uthman) said, “And I, by the Grace of Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, am a follower of their narrations, seeking illumination by their lights (and I) advise my brothers and my companions that they should not slip away from their sign-post and that they should not follow other than their sayings. That they should not occupy themselves with these newly invented matters from among the innovations, which have become widespread amongst the Muslims (and likewise the detestable things which) have appeared and become popular (amongst the people). And if a single one of these matters appeared upon the tongue of anyone in the times of those Scholars, that they would have forsaken him, would have declared him an innovator, called him a liar and would have attributed to him, every evil and loathsome thing.
Let not my brothers, may Allaah protect them, be deceived by the abundance of the Ahlul-Bid’ah (the People of Innovation) and their large numbers (for verily, the abundance of the people of falsehood and the small number of the people of truth is a sign of the approach of the Day of Truth), since the Chosen Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “Indeed, amongst the signs of the Hour and its being close at hand, is that knowledge will diminish and ignorance will be widespread.”
(And knowledge is the Sunnah and ignorance is Bid’ah. And he صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “Verily, Iman will retreat to Madinah as a snake retreats into its burrow.” And he صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “The Hour will not be established… … the earth anyone who says, Allaah.”
And whoever holds fast to the Sunnah of the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم (today), acts upon it, remains firm upon it and calls to it, his reward is more numerous and plentiful than the one who was upon this ‘aqeedah (i.e., the above-mentioned (aqeedah) at the beginnings of Islami and faith. Since the Chosen Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “He will receive the reward of fifty (i.e. the one clinging to that which the Companions were upon the later times). “ So it was said, ‘Fifty from amongst them? He صلى الله عليه وسلم replied, “No, but rather front amongst you (i.e., the Companions).”
(Abu ‘Uthman said), “I found in the book of the Shaikh, the Imaam, my grandfather, Abu ‘AbduLlah Muhammad Ibn ‘Adi Hamdawaih as-Saaboonee, Abul- Abbas, al-Hasan ibn Sufyan an-Nasawi informed us that al- ’Abbas ibn Sabeeh narrated to them (saying): ‘Abdul-Jabbar ibn Tahir narrated to us (saying): Ma’mar ibn Rashid narrated to me (saying): I heard ibn Shihab az-Zuhri saying, ‘Teaching a sunnah is more superior than two hundred years of worship.”
Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah Ibn Muhammad ibn Zakariyyah ash-Shaybani – informed us, saying Abdul-Abbas Muhammad ibn ‘Abdur-Rahman ad-Daghoolee informed us, saying: “I heard Muhammad ibn Hatim al-Madhfaree saying: I heard ‘Amr ibn Muhammad saying: Abu Mu’aawiyah ad-Dareer was speaking to Harun ar-Rasheed, and he narrated to him the hadeeth of Abu Hurairah, “Adam and Musa had a dispute…” so ‘Alee ibn Ja’far said, “How can this be when there exists the gap (of time) between Adam and Musa that (which) there is.” He (i.e., the narrator) said, “So Harun jumped on account of it and said, “He is narrating to you from the Messenger and you oppose him by saying, ‘How?’ And he did not cease saying this until he calmed down and became silent.”
And in such a way, is it necessary for a person to honour and revere the narrations of the Messenger of Allaah صلى الله عليه وسلم. He should receive them with acceptance, submission and affirm their truthfulness. He should disown and criticise, in the most severe fashion, anyone who takes a path other than this path, which Harun ar-Rasheedرحمه الله took with the one who resists and opposes an authentic narration which he has heard, by saying, ‘How?’ seeking thereby to reject it and to distance himself from it, and does not receive it with acceptance, in the way that everything which has been reported from the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم should he accepted. May Allah, the Sublime, make us amongst those who listen to the Word and follow the best (thereof) and who hold fast, in this world, for the duration of their lives, to the Book and the Sunnah. And may He keep us away from the desires that lead astray, the opinions that waver, and the evils that cause humiliation, as a bounty and grace from Him.
From “Usool as Sunnah,” by Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal رحمه الله