Sayings of the Imaam Regarding Following the Sunnah and Ignoring their Views Contradictory To It

It would be beneficial if we gave some of these here, for perhaps this will admonish or remind those who follow the opinion of the Imaams - nay, of those far below the Imaams in rank - blindly, sticking to their madhhabs or views as if these had descended from the heavens! But Allaah, Mighty and Sublime, says:
"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."
As for Imaam Shaafi'i, the quotations from him are most numerous and beautiful [1],and his followers were the best in sticking to them:
1. "The sunnahs of the Messenger of Allaah (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."
2. "The Muslims are unanimously agreed that if a sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) is made clear to someone, it is not permitted [Ar.: halaal] for him to leave it for the saying of anyone else." [Ibn al-Qayyim (2/361) & Fulaani (p. 68)]
3. "If you find in my writings something different to the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam), then speak on the basis of the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu '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."
4. "When a hadeeth is found to be saheeh, then that is my madhhab."
5. "You [3] 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." [4]
6. "In every issue where the people of narration find a report from the Messenger of Allaah (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."
7. "If you see me saying something, and contrary to it is authentically-reported from the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam), then know that my intelligence has departed."
8. "For everything I say, if there is something authentic from the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) contrary to my saying, then the hadeeth of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) comes first, so do not follow my opinion." [Ibn Abi Haatim, Abu Nu'aim & Ibn 'Asaakir (15/9/2).]
9. "Every statement on the authority of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) is also my view, even if you do not hear it from me." [Ibn Abi Haatim (pp. 93-4).]

These are the clear, lucid sayings of the Imaam Shaafi'i, (Allaah Exalted be pleased with him) about sticking to the Hadeeth and forbidding the following of their opinion without clearly- visible evidence, such that mere opinion and interpretation is not acceptable.
Hence, whoever adhered to whatever of the Sunnah that was proved authentic, even if it opposed some of the Imaams' sayings, he would not be conflicting with their madhhab, nor straying from their path; rather, such a person would be following all of them and would be grasping the most trustworthy hand-hold, which never breaks. However, this would not be the case with the one who abandoned any of the authentic Sunnah simply because it contradicted their views; nay, such a person would be being disobedient to them and opposing their above mentioned sayings, while Allaah says:
"But no, by Your Lord, they can have no (real) faith, until they make you judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against your decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction."[an-Nisaa', 4:65] He also says:
"Then let those beware who withstand the Messenger's order, lest some trial befall them or a grievous penalty be inflicted on them."[an-Noor, 24:63]
Haafiz Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (rahimahullaah) says: "Therefore it is obligatory on anyone who hears of a command of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) or knows it, to explain it to the Ummah, advise them sincerely, and order them to follow his command, even if it contradicts the opinion of someone great. This is because the authority of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) has the most right to be respected and followed, over and above the opinion of anyone great who has unknowingly contradicted the Messenger's command in any matter. This is why the Companions and those after would refute anyone who contradicted the authentic Sunnah, sometimes being very stern in their refutation [5], not out of hatred for that person, for they loved and respected him, but because the Messenger of Allaah was more beloved to them, and his command was superior to the command of any other created being. Hence, when the order of the Messenger and that of someone else conflicted, the order of the Messenger would be more fitting to be enforced and followed. None of this would stop them respecting the person they had opposed because they knew that he would be forgiven [6]; in fact, the latter would not mind his instruction being opposed when the command of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) was clearly shown to be opposite." [Quoted in the notes on Eeqaaz al-Himam (p. 93)]
Indeed, how could they mind that, when they had ordered their followers to do so, as we have seen, and had enjoined on them to abandon any of their views which contradicted the Sunnah. In fact, Imaam Shaafi'i (rahimahullaah) told his companions to attribute the authentic Sunnah to him also, even if he had not adopted it or had adopted something contradictory to it. Hence, when the analyst Ibn Daqeeq al-'Eid (rahimahullaah) collected together, in a bulky volume, the issues in which one or more of the four Imaams' madhhabs had contradicted the authentic hadeeth, he wrote at the beginning of it, "It is prohibited to attribute these answers to the Mujtahid Imaams, and obligatory on the jurists who follow their opinions to know of these so that they do not quote them regarding these and thus lie against them." [Fulaani (p. 99)]
The Imaams' Followers Leaving their Views if these Contradicted the Sunnah

Due to all that we have mentioned, the disciples of the Imaams, a number of people from those of old, and a few from those of later time [cf. al-Waaqi'ah 56:13-14], would not accept all of their Imaam's views; they actually ignored many when they found them to be clearly against the Sunnah. Even the two Imaams, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan and Abu Yoosuf (rahimahullaah) differed from their shaikh Abu Haneefah "in about a third of the Madhhab" [7], as the books of masaa'il prove. Similarly is said about Imaam al- Muzani [8] and other followers of Shaafi'i and other Imaams; were we to start giving examples, the discussion would become exceedingly, long, and we would digress from what we set out to do in this Introduction, so we shall limit ourselves to two instances:
1) Imaam Muhammad says in his Muwatta' [9](p. 158), "As for Abu Haneefah, he did not regard there being a prayer to ask for rain, but we hold that the imaam prays two rak'ahs and then supplicates and holds out his wrapping garment ..."
2) We have 'Isaam ibn Yoosuf al-Balkhi, one of the companions of Imaam Muhammad
To sum up: I sincerely hope that no follower of an Imaam will race to condemn the principles of this Article and abandon benefiting from the sunnahs of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) which it contains, with the argument that they are contrary to his Madhhab. I hope that such a person will instead consider what we have given of the exhortations of the Imaams towards the obligation to act on the Sunnah and ignore their sayings contradictory to it. I hope also that he will realise that to condemn the attitude of this Article is to condemn whichever Imaam he is following, for we have taken these principles from those Imaams, as we have explained. Therefore, whoever refuses to be guided by them on this path is in great danger, for such refusal necessitates turning away from the Sunnah, the Sunnah to which we have been ordered to refer in cases of difference of opinion and on which we have been commanded to depend.
I ask Allaah to make us among those about whom He says,
"The answer of the believers, when summoned to Allaah and His Messenger, in order that he may judge between them, is no other than this: they say, "We hear and we obey" - it is such as these that will attain Success. It is those who obey Allaah and His Messenger, and fear Allaah, and keep their duty to Him, who will triumph."[an-Noor] 24:51-52