there exists another common misconception among muqallideen which bars them from practising the sunnah which it is apparent to them that their madhhab is different to it in that issue: they think that practising that sunnah entails faulting the founder of the madhhab. to them, finding fault means insulting the imaam; if it is not allowed to insult any individual muslim, how can they insult one of their imaams ?
answer: this reasoning is totally fallacious, and borne of not understanding the sunnah; otherwise, how can an intelligent muslim argue in such a way?!
the messenger of allaah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) himself said, when the one making a judgment strives his outmost and arrives at the correct result, he has two rewards; but if he judges, striving his utmost and passes the wrong judgment, he has one reward. this hadeeth refutes the above argument and explains lucidly and without any obscurity that if someone says, "so-and-so was wrong", its meaning under the sharee'ah is "so-and-so has one reward." so if he is rewarded in the eyes of the one finding fault, how can you accuse the latter of insulting him?! there is doubt that this type of accusation is baseless and anyone who makes it must retract it: otherwise it is he who is insulting muslims, not just ordinary individuals among them, but their great imaams among the companions, successors the subsequent mujtahid imaams and others. this is because we know for sure that these illustrious personalities used to fault and refute each other; is it reasonable to say, "they used to insult each other"? no! in fact, it is authentically-reported that the messenger of allaah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) himself faulted abu bakr (radi allaahu 'anhu) in his interpretation of a man's dream, saying to him, "you were right in some of it and wrong in some of it"- so did he (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) insult abu bakr by these words?!
one of the astonishing effects this misconception has on its holders is that it prevents them from following the sunnah when it is different to their madhhab, since to them practising it means insulting the imaam, whereas following him, even when contrary to the sunnah, means respecting and loving him! hence they insist on following his opinion to escape from this supposed disrespect.
these people have forgotten - i am not saying: ... pretended to forget - that because of this notion, they have landed in something far worse than that from which they were fleeing. it should be said to them, "if to follow someone means that you are respecting him, and to oppose him means that you are insulting him, then how do you allow yourselves to oppose the example of the prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) and not follow it, preferring to follow the imaam of the madhhab in a path different to the sunnah, when the imaam is not infallible and insulting him is not kufr?! if you interpret opposing the imaam as insulting him, then opposing the messenger of allaah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) is more obviously insulting him; in fact, it is open kufr, from which we seek refuge with allaah!" if this is said to them, they cannot answer to it, by allaah, except one retort which we hear time and time again from some of them: "we have left this sunnah trusting in the imaam of the madhhab, and he was more learned about the sunnah than us."
our answer to this is from many angles, which have already been discussed at length in this introduction. this is why i shall briefly limit myself to one approach, a decisive reply by the permission of allaah. i say:
"the imaam of your madhhab is not the only one who was more learned about the sunnah than you: in fact, there are dozens, nay hundreds, of imaams who too were more knowledgeable about the sunnah than you. therefore, if an authentic sunnah happens to differ from your madhhab, and it was taken by one of these other imaams, it is definitely essential that you accept this sunnah in this circumstance. this is because your above- mentioned argument is of no use here, for the one opposing you will reply, 'we have accepted this sunnah trusting in our imaam, who accepted it' - in this instance, to follow the latter imaam is preferable to following the imaam who has differed from the sunnah."
this is clear and not confusing to anyone, allaah willing.
because of all of the above, i am able to say:
since this book of ours has collected the authentic sunnahs reported from the messenger of allaah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) about the description of his prayer, there is no excuse for anyone to not act on it, for there is nothing in it which the scholars have unanimously rejected, as they would never do. in fact, in every instance several of them have adopted the authentic sunnah; any one of them who did not do so is excused and rewarded once, because the text was not conveyed to him at all, or it was conveyed but in such a way that to him it did not constitute proof, or due to other reasons which are well-known among the scholars. however, those after him in front of whom the text is firmly established have no excuse for following his opinion; rather, it is obligatory to follow the infallible text.
this message has been the purpose of this introduction. allaah, mighty and sublime, says,
"o you who believe! give your response to allaah and his messenger when he calls you to that which will give you life, and know that allaah comes in between a man and his heart, and it is he to whom you shall all be gathered."
allaah says the truth; he shows the way; and he is the best to protect and the best to help. may allaah send prayers and peace on muhammad, and on his family and his companions. praise be to allaah, lord of the worlds.
muhammad naasir ad-deen al-albaani