as for imaam shaafi'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 allaah (pbuh) 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 (pbuh), then the correct view is what the messenger of allaah (pbuh) has said, and it is my view."32
2. "the muslims are unanimously agreed that if a sunnah of the messenger of allaah (pbuh) 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 allaah (pbuh), then speak on the basis of the sunnah of the messenger of allaah (pbuh), 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 allaah (pbuh) 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 (pbuh), then know that my intelligence has departed."40
8. "for everything i say, if there is something authentic from the prophet (pbuh) contrary to my saying, then the hadeeth of the prophet (pbuh) comes first, so do not follow my opinion."41
9. "every statement on the authority of the prophet (pbuh) is also my view, even if you do not hear it from me."42
ibn hazm says in usool al-ahkaam (6/118):
"indeed, all the fuqahaa' whose opinions are followed were opposed to taqleed, and they forbade their companions from following their opinion blindly. the sternest among them in this regard was shaafi'i (rahimahullaah), for he repeatedly emphasised, more than anyone else, following the authentic narrations and accepting whatever the proof dictated; he also made himself innocent of being followed totally, and announced this to those around him. may this benefit him in front of allaah, and may his reward be of the highest, for he was the cause of great good."
related by haakim with a continuous sanad up to shaafi'i, as in taareekh dimashq of ibn 'asaakir (15/1/3), i'laam al- mooqi'een (2/363, 364) & eeqaaz (p. 100).
ibn al-qayyim (2/361) & fulaani (p. 68)
harawi in dhamm al-kalaam (3/47/1), khateeb in al-ihtijaaj bi ash-shaafi'i (8/2), ibn 'asaakir (15/9/10), nawawi in al- majmoo' (1/63), ibn al-qayyim (2/361) & fulaani (p. 100); the second narration is from hilyah al-awliyaa' of abu nu'aim.
nawawi in al-majmoo' (1/63), sha'raani (1/57), giving its sources as haakim and baihaqi, & fulaani (p. 107). sha'raani said, "ibn hazm said, 'that is, ... found to be saheeh by him or by any other imaam'." his saying given next confirms this understanding.
nawawi says: "our companions acted according to this in the matter of tathweeb (calling to prayer in addition to the adhaan), the conditions on coming out of ihraam due to illness, and other issues well-known in the books of the madhhab. among those of our companions who are reported to have passed judgment on the basis of the hadeeth (i.e. rather than the saying of shaafi'i) are abu ya'qoob al-buweeti and abu l-qaasim ad-daariki. of our companions from the muhadditheen, imaam abu bakr al-baihaqi and others employed this approach. many of our earliest companions, if they faced an issue for which there was a hadeeth, and the madhhab of shaafi'i was contrary to it, would act according to the hadeeth and give verdicts based on it, saying, 'the madhhab of shaafi'i is whatever agrees with the hadeeth.' shaikh abu 'amr (ibn as-salaah) says, 'whoever among the shaafi'is found a hadeeth contradicting his madhhab, he would consider whether he fulfilled the conditions of ijtihaad generally, or in that particular topic or issue, in which case he would be free to act on the hadeeth; if not, but nevertheless he found it hard to contradict the hadeeth after further analysis, he would not be able to find a convincing justification for opposing the hadeeth. hence, it would be left for him to act according to the hadeeth if an independent imaam other than shaafi'i had acted on it, and this would be justification for his leaving the madhhab of his imaam in that issue.' what he (abu 'amr) has said is correct and established. allaah knows best."
there is another possibility which ibn as-salaah forgot to mention: what would one do if he did not find anyone else who acted according to the hadeeth? this has been answered by taqi ad-deen as-subki in his article, the meaning of shaafi'i's saying, "when a hadeeth is found to be saheeh, then that is my madhhab" (p. 102, vol. 3): "for me, the best thing is to follow the hadeeth. a person should imagine himself in front of the prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam), just having heard it from him: would there be leeway for him to delay acting on it? no, by allaah ... and everyone bears a responsibility according to his understanding."
the rest of this discussion is given and analysed in i'laam al- muwaqqi'een (2/302, 370) and in the book of al-fulaane, (full title:) eeqaaz himam ulu l-absaar, lil-iqtidaa' bi sayyid al- muhaajireen wal-ansaar, wa tahdheeruhum 'an al-ibtidaa' ash- shaa'i' fi l-quraa wal-amsaar, min taqleed al-madhaahib ma'a l- hamiyyah wal-'asabiyyah bain al-fuqahaa' al-a'saar (awakening the minds of those who have perception, towards following the leader of the emigrants and helpers, and warning them against the innovation widespread among contemporary jurists in the towns and cities, of following madhhabs with zeal and party- spirit). the latter is a unique book in its field, which every desirer of truth should study with understanding and reflection.
addressing imaam ahmad ibn hanbal (rahimahullaah).
related by ibn abi haatim in aadaab ash-shaafi'i (pp. 94-5), abu nu'aim in hulyah al-awliyaa' (9/106), al-khateeb in al- ihtijaaj bish-shaafi'i (8/1), and from him ibn 'asaakir (15/9/1), ibn 'abdul barr in al-intiqaa' (p. 75), ibn al-jawzi in manaaqib al-imaam ahmad (p. 499) & harawi (2/47/2) with three routes from 'abdullaah ibn ahmad ibn hanbal from his father that shaafi'i said to him: ...etc; thus, it is authentic on the authority of shaafi'i. this is why ibn al- qayyim attributed it definitely to him in i'laam (2/325), as did fulaani in eeqaaz (p. 152) and then said: "baihaqi said, 'this is why he - i.e. shaafi'i - used hadeeth so much, because he gathered knowledge from the people of hijaaz, syria, yemen and 'iraq, and so accepted all that he found to be authentic, without leaning towards or looking at what he had considered out of the madhhab of the people of his land when the truth was clear to him elsewhere. some of those before him would limit themselves to what they found in the madhhab of the people of their land, without attempting to ascertain the authenticity of what opposed it. may allaah forgive all of us'."
abu nu'aim (9/107), harawi (47/1), ibn al-qayyim in i'laam al-muwaqqi'een (2/363) & fulaani (p. 104).
ibn abi haatim in al-aadaab (p. 93), abul qaasim samarqandi in al-amaali, as in the selection from it by abu hafs al- mu'addab (234/1), abu nu'aim (9/106) & ibn 'asaakir (15/10/1) with a saheeh sanad.
ibn abi haatim, abu nu'aim & ibn 'asaakir (15/9/2).
ibn abi haatim (pp. 93-4).