Islamic Jurisprudence (Usul Al Fiqh):
Fatwa of Sahaba
By Shah Abdul Hannan

Fatwa of Sahaba (Companion of the Prophet, SM)

     Fatwa (opinion or ruling) of Sahaba is indeed a very important and deserves highest consideration, they being close to the Prophet (SM) and because of their direct knowledge from the Prophet (SM). There is some disagreement as to who is a Sahabi. Majority hold that anybody who met the Prophet (SM) while believing, is a Sahabi. Minority hold that "Suhbat" (continuity of companionship) is a requirement to call a person a Sahabi of the Prophet (SM) [Imam Shawkani, Irshad;  also Dr. Hashim Kamali, Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence, Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge, U.K.]. Both points of view have justifications and can not be ignored.  The fact of being Sahabi can be established by continuous testimony (tawatur) or by affirmation of any other companion or even by own claim (if the person is upright).

Fatwa of Sahaba means an opinion reached by a Sahaba by way of Ijtihad. As regards whether fatwa of Sahaba constitute a proof on succeeding generations, there are three views : First view is that - it is an absolute proof. The proponents of this view quote the Quranic verses 9:100, 3:109. They also quote Hadith like "my companions are like stars" or “Honour my companions".  First view is held by Imam Malik. Imam Shafii and Ahmad Bin Hanbal also have been quoted in its support.

     Against this view, it has been suggested that these references speak of the status and dignity of Sahaba. These are not categorical (Qaati) regarding compulsion to obey their decisions). Second view is - that Ijtihad of a companion is not a proof and does not bind the succeeding generations. Hanafi jurist Abul Hasan al Karkhi, Imam Ahmed (according to one view of him) and Asharite and Mutazilite scholars hold this view. They quote the Quranic Ayat 59 : 2 ("Consider, O You who have vision"). It is argued that the Ayat makes Ijtihad an obligation of all who are competent and makes no distinction between Sahabis and others. Imam Gazali and Amidi consider it preferred view. To me this is the appropriate view.

     Third view is that of Abu Hanifa himself. He says that ruling of a companion is a proof if it is in conflict with Qiyas but not when it agrees with Qiyas. The aforesaid are the main views. There are some other views which may be seen in the books of Usul.

     It can be concluded that the Fatwa of a companion is a source of guidance which merits careful consideration (though not binding except in case of their clear Ijma). 

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