Buti: “What is your method for understanding the rulings of Allah? Do you take them from the Qur’an and sunna, or from the Imams of ijtihad?”
Salafi: “I examine the positions of the Imams and their evidences for them, and then take the closest of them to the evidence of the Qur’an and Sunna.”

Buti: “You have five thousand Syrian pounds that you have saved for six months. You then buy merchandise and begin trading with it. When do you pay zakat on the merchandise, after six months, or after one year?”

Salafi: [He thought, and said,] “Your question implies you believe zakat should be paid on business capital.”

Buti: “I am just asking. You should answer in your own way. Here in front of you is a library containing books of Qur’anic exegesis, hadith, and the works of the mujtahid Imams.”

Salafi: [He reflected for a moment, then said,] “Brother, this is din, and not simple matter. One could answer from the top of one’s head, but it would require thought, research, and study; all of which take time. And we have come to discuss something else.”

Buti: I dropped the question and said, “All right. Is it obligatory for every Muslim to examine the evidences for the positions of the Imams, and adopt the closest of them to the Qur’an and Sunna?”

Salafi: “Yes.”

Buti: “This means that all people possess the same capacity for ijtihad that the Imams of the madhhabs have; or even greater, since without a doubt, anyone who can judge the positions of the Imams and evaluate them according to the measure of the Qur’an and sunna must know more than all of them.”

Salafi: He said, “In reality, people are of three categories: the muqallid or ‘follower of qualified scholarship without knowing the primary textual evidence (of Qur’an and hadith)’; the muttabi‘, or ‘follower of primary textual evidence’; and the mujtahid, or scholar who can deduce rulings directly from the primary textual evidence (ijtihad). He who compares between madhhabs and chooses the closest of them to the Qur’an is a muttabi‘, a follower of primary textual evidence, which is an intermediate degree between following scholarship (taqlid) and deducing rulings from primary texts (ijtihad).”

  • Buti: “Then what is the follower of scholarship (muqallid) obliged to do?”

    Salafi: “To follow the mujtahid he agrees with.”

    Buti: “Is there any difficulty in his following one of them, adhering to him, and not changing?”

    Salafi: “Yes there is. It is unlawful (haram).”

    Buti: “What is the proof that it is unlawful?”

    Salafi: “The proof is that he is obliging himself to do something Allah Mighty and Majestic has not obligated him to.”

    Buti: I said, “Which of the seven canonical readings (qira’at) do you recite the Qur’an in?”

    Salafi: “That of Hafs.”

    Buti: “Do you recite only in it, or in a different canonical reading each day.”

    Salafi: “No, I recite only in it.”

    Buti: “Why do you read only it when Allah Mighty and Majestic has not obliged you to do anything except to recite the Qur’an as it has been conveyed—with the total certainty of tawatur (being conveyed by witnesses so numerous at every stage of transmission that their sheer numbers obviate the possibility of forgery or alteration), from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)?”

    Salafi: “Because I have not had a opportunity to study other canonical readings, or recite the Qur’an except in this way.”

    Buti: “But the individual who learns the fiqh of the Shafi‘i school—he too has not been able to study other madhhabs or had the opportunity to understand the rules of his religion except from this Imam. So if you say that he must know all the ijtihads of the Imams so as to go by all of them, it follows that you too must learn all the canonical readings so as to recite in all of them. And if you excuse yourself because you cannot, you should excuse him also. In any case, what I say is: where did you get that it is obligatory for a follower of scholarship (muqallid) to keep changing from one madhhab to another, when Allah has not obliged him to? That is, just as he is not obliged to adhere to a particular madhhab, neither is he obliged to keep changing.”

    Salafi: “What is unlawful for him is adhering to one while believing that Allah has commanded him to do so.”