Mu’adh ibn Jabal and Taqleed
Imam Tirmidhi and Imam Abu Dawood have both narrated that when the Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wa sallam) sent Mu’adh ibn Jabal (radhiallahu anhu) to Yemen (as a governor), he asked him:
“How will you judge if you are asked to do so?”
Mu’adh said: “I will judge according to the Book of Allah.”
The Prophet: “And if you do not find it in the Book of Allah?”
Muadh: “Then I will judge according to the Sunnah of His Messenger.”
The Prophet : “And if you do not find it in the Sunnah of the Messenger, or in the Book of Allah?”
Muadh: “Then I will exercise my opinion and I will not be negligent with it.”
The Prophet then patted the chest of Mu’adh with his hands and said: “All praise is due to Allah, Who has guided the emissary of His Messenger towards that which He guided His Messenger.” [Abu Dawood]
The Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wa sallam) sent one of the best scholars from amongst the Companions. He appointed Mu’adh (radhiallahu ‘anhu) as a governor, judge, mentor and Mujtahid for the people of Yemen and ordered, him to be followed. He allowed him, not only to give Fatwas based on the Qur’an and Sunnah, but also to use and exercise his own judgment. It is clear that the Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wa sallam) decreed the people of Yemen to practice Taqleed of an individual.
To argue that this Hadith deals with judicial practices and not with Ijtihad and Taqleed is misguiding. Aswad ibn Yazid said that Mu’adh ibn Jabal came to us in Yemen as a teacher and as a governor. We asked him regarding how the inheritance should be distributed of a man who had died leaving behind a daughter and a sister. He ruled that both the daughter and the sister should receive half each [Bukhari]. Here Mu’adh ruled as a Mufti and did not offer any proof for his ruling. His view was implemented by merely accepting and following it as in Taqleed. However, even though Mu’adh did not offer any explanation for his ruling, his opinion was based on the Qur’an and Sunnah. There is another Fatwa of Mu’adh in which he used his discretion and exercised his Ijtihad.
Abu Aswad Al-Dailami said that when Mu’adh was in Yemen, people came up to him with a case of a Jew who had died and left a Muslim brother him. Mu’adh said: “I have heard the Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wa sallam) say that Islam increases (gives) and does not decrease (take away).” [Ahmed]
So Mu’adh then ruled that the Muslim should inherit from the Jew. Here Mu’adh used a hadith whose background had nothing to do with inheritance, but still used it to form an opinion which was accepted and followed by the people of Yemen .
There is yet another incident which has been narrated in the Musnad of Ahmed and in the Mu’ajjam of Tabarani which says that when Mu’adh came to Yemen, a woman from Khaulan met him and offered salaams to him.
“O dear man! Who has sent you?” she asked him.
“The Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam has sent me” replied Mu’adh.
“The Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam sent you so that makes you the messenger of the
Messenger of Allah.”
“So won’t you inform me of Islam O’ messenger of the Messenger?” she continued.
“Ask me what you wish,” replied Mu’adh.
It is clear that Mu’adh was sent as a representative of the Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wa sallam). People would ask of him questions about Islamic issues and he would answer. The above mentioned woman verified his status and then proceeded to ask him questions. Mu’adh (radhiallahu ‘anhu) obliged her and answered her questions.
One of her question was “What are the duties of a wife towards her husband?” In reply to this question, Mu’adh did not quote the Quran nor Hadith, but merely explained the broad Islamic
principles. He did not offer any proofs for his answer. After all, Mu’adh is the one
about whom the Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wa sallam) said that he was the most informed of
what is Halal and what is Haram [Nisai, Tirmidhi and ibn Majah].
The Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wa sallam) also said:
“Mu’adh will be raised on the Day of Judgment far ahead of Scholars to a distance that one can shoot an arrow”.
Not only did the people of Yemen follow Mu’adh, but so to did other Companions. Abu Muslim Khaulani said that he went to the mosque in Damascus and saw a group of Companions gathered there (and in the narration of Kathir ibn Hisham, [Ahmed] there were close to 30 Companions of the Prophet sallalahu alaihi wa sallam ). Among them, there was a young man whose eyes had antimony in them and who had white teeth. Each time they differed in an issue, they would refer to the young man. Abu Muslim asked who the young man was and he was informed that it was Mu’adh ibn Jabal. In yet another narration of this incident, the words are: “And whenever they differed in an issue, they would refer it to Mu’adh and accept his decision as final.” [Ahmed]
Mu’adh ibn Jabal (radhiallahu ‘anhu) was among those Companions who were scholars and about whom the Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wa sallam) said that: “the most informed about what is Halal and what is Haram.”
He was also followed by several other Companions. The Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wa
sallam) sent him to Yemen as a governor, judge and as a scholar whose opinion should be
listened to and followed. The people of Yemen obliged and this is the essence of Taqleed
of an individual.
There is a narration in the Sunnan of Abu Dawood in which Amr ibn Maimoon Al-Awdai said:
“Mu’adh ibn Jabal (radhiallahu ‘anhu) came to us in Yemen as the messenger of the Messenger of Allah. I heard his Takbeer in Fajr and found that he had a deep voice. I developed an affinity with him and I did not leave his company until I buried him in Syria. Then, I searched for the most learned scholar after him and found Abdullah ibn Mas’ood. I stayed with him until he died.”
In this narration, Amr ibn Maimoon searched for a scholar after Mu’adh (radhiallahu ‘anhu) passed away. He stayed with Mu’adh and Ibn Mas’ood (radhiallahu ‘anhum) merely to seek knowledge of Islamic Law. So as long as Mu’adh was alive, he consulted him and when he died, he consulted Ibn Mas’ood (radhiallahu ‘anhu).
 It should be noted that this ruling was Mua’dh’s own conclusion. The opinion of the majority of other Companions is based on a hadith which says that a Muslim does not inherit from a non-Muslim.
Taken from: “Legal Status of Following a Madhab” by Mufti Taqi Uthmani