"Follow (O men!) the revelation given to you from your Lord, and follow not, as friends and protectors, other than Him. Little is it you remember of admonition." (Qur'an 7:3)
The first of them is Abu Haneefah Nu`maan ibn Thaabit, whose companions have narrated from him various sayings and diverse warnings, all of them leading to one thing: the obligation to accept the Hadeeth, and to give up following the opinions of the imaams which contradict it:
1. "When a hadeeth is found to be saheeh, then that is my madhhab."20
Another narration adds, "... for we are mortals: we say one thing one day, and take it back the next day."
In another narration, "Woe to you, O Ya`qub25! Do not write down everything you hear from me, for it happens that I hold one opinion today and reject it tomorrow, or hold one opinion tomorrow and reject it the day after tomorrow."26
3. "When I say something contradicting the Book of Allah the Exalted or what is narrated from the Messenger (sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam), then ignore my saying."27
Imam Malik ibn Anas ibn Malik ibn `Amr al Asbahi (rahimahu Allah) - Founder of the Maliki School of Fiqh
As for Imam Malik ibn Anas, he said:
1. "Truly I am only a mortal: I make mistakes (sometimes) and I am correct (sometimes). Therefore, look into my opinions: all that agrees with the Book and the Sunnah, accept it; and all that does not agree with the Book and the Sunnah, ignore it."28
2. "Everyone after the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) will have his sayings accepted and rejected - not so the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam)."29
3. Ibn Wahb said: "I heard Malik being asked about cleaning between the toes during ablution. He said, 'The people do not have to do that.' I did not approach him until the crowd had lessened, when I said to him, 'We know of a sunnah about that.' He said, 'What is that ?' I said, 'Laith ibn Sa'd, Ibn Lahee'ah and 'Amr ibn al-Haarith narrated to us from Yazeed ibn 'Amr al-Ma'aafiri from Abu 'Abdur-Rahman al-Hubuli from Mustawrid ibn Shaddaad al-Qurashi who said, 'I saw the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) rubbing between his toes with his little finger.' He said, 'This hadeeth is sound; I had not heard of it at all until now.' Afterwards, I heard him being asked about the same thing, on which he ordered cleaning between the toes."30
Imam Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Idrīs al-Shafi`i (rahimahu Allah) - Founder of the Shafi`i School of Fiqh
As for Imam Shafi`i, the quotations from him are most numerous and beautiful31, and his followers were the best in sticking to them:
1. "The sunnahs of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam) reach, as well as escape from, every one of us. So whenever I voice my opinion, or formulate a principle, where something contrary to my view exists on the authority of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam), then the correct view is what the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) has said, and it is my view."32
2. "The Muslims are unanimously agreed that if a sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam) is made clear to someone, it is not permitted33 for him to leave it for the saying of anyone else."34
3. "If you find in my writings something different to the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam), then speak on the basis of the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam), and leave what I have said."
In one narration: "... then follow it (the Sunnah), and do not look sideways at anyone else's saying."35
4. "When a hadeeth is found to be saheeh, then that is my madhhab."36
5. "You37 are more knowledgeable about Hadeeth than I, so when a hadeeth is saheeh, inform me of it, whether it is from Kufah, Basrah or Syria, so that I may take the view of the hadeeth, as long as it is saheeh."38
6. "In every issue where the people of narration find a report from the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam) to be saheeh which is contrary to what I have said, then I take my saying back, whether during my life or after my death."39
7. "If you see me saying something, and contrary to it is authentically-reported from the Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam), then know that my intelligence has departed."40
8. "For everything I say, if there is something authentic from the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) contrary to my saying, then the hadeeth of the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) comes first, so do not follow my opinion."41
9. "Every statement on the authority of the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) is also my view, even if you do not hear it from me."42
Imam Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal Abu `Abd Allah al-Shaybani (rahimahu Allah) - Founder of the Hanbali School of Fiqh
Imaam Ahmad was the foremost among the Imaams in collecting the Sunnah and sticking to it, so much so that he even "disliked that a book consisting of deductions and opinions be written."43 Because of this he said:
1. "Do not follow my opinion; neither follow the opinion of Maalik, nor Shaafi'i, nor Awzaa'i, nor Thawri, but take from where they took."44
In one narration: "Do not copy your Deen from anyone of these, but whatever comes from the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) and his Companions, take it; next are their Successors, where a man has a choice."
2. "The opinion of Awzaa'i, the opinion of Maalik, the opinion of Abu Haneefah: all of it is opinion, and it is all equal in my eyes. However, the proof is in the narrations (from the Prophet (sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam) and his Companions)."47
3. "Whoever rejects a statement of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam) is on the brink of destruction."48
We live in a time where nations are divided by every little aspect of their lives. What country you are from, what language you speak and now even different aspects and opinions within our din divide us. This is not to say that these amazing schools of fiqh should be forgotten nor should these scholars be ignored. I am also not implying that if you follow one madhhab or all four madhahib you are wrong or right one way or another. I just find it odd that someone can take one of these madhahib and claim that you can follow it blindly while consider all other madhahib false when all of these scholars advocated using the Qur'an and sunnah in their work. It just shocks me that their followers can take on such an arrogant manner when the scholars themselves were so humble. barak Allahu fihum jami`an.
'Let there arise from amongst you, a group of people, inviting to all that is good, commanding the right and forbidding the wrong, and they are the successful.' (Qur'an 3:104)