Ibn al-Mubarak (rahimahullaah) said, “I heard Abu Hanifah (rahimahullaah) say, ‘If something reaches us from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) then it is more than deserving to be accepted and honoured. If something reaches us from the Companions of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), then we select one of their positions. If something comes from the students of the Companions, then we may participate with them [to arrive at what is correct].'”
Refer to Akhbar Abu Hanifah (p. 10) of as-Saymiri, transmitted by Abu Yusuf from Abu Hanifah Iqaz Himam Uli al-Absar (p. 70).
Malik Ibn Anas al-Asbahi the Imam of Darul-Hijrah (rahimahullah) also proceeded upon this path. When his book, al-Muwatta’, was mentioned to him, Malik said, “It contains hadith of the Messenger of Allaah (صلى الله عليه وسلم), and the statements of the Companions and their students along with their opinions. I mentioned some of my own opinions which I reached through interpretive jurisprudence (ijtihad) and what I have acquired from the people of knowledge in our land. I have not departed whatsoever from their stances.”
Refer to Tartib al-Madarak (1/193).
This was also the path that was traversed by al-Shafi’i (rahimahullaah). Al-Shafi’i (rahimahullaah) said, “Knowledge consists of levels:
- The First Level: The Book of Allah (the Qur’an) and the Sunnah if it has been authentically established in the Sunnah.
- The Second Level: The scholarly concensus (ijma’), when no proof is found in the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
- The Third Level: When some of the Companions state something and we do not know of any Companion who opposed them.
- The Fourth Level: Differing opinions amongst the Companions (radiyallahu anhum) of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم).
- The Fifth Level: [The correct use of] juristic analogy or inference (qiyas) in relation to some of these levels.
Nothing should be sought from other than the Qur’an and the Sunnah when the appropriate texts are found. For indeed knowledge is sought from the top.”
Refer to al-Madkhal ila al-Sunan al-Kubra (p. 110).
This is also the methodology of Ahmad ibn Muhammad Ibn Hanbal (rahimahullaah). Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Hanbal said, “If there is a hadith concerning a specific issue that was reported from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), then we do not accept a statement from any of the Companions or those who came after them in opposition to it.
If the Companions of the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) held different positions about an issue then we choose from their positions. We do not depart from their positions and [accept the stance] of others.
If there is no statement from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) or his Companions in an issue, then we choose from the positions of the students of the Companions…”
Refer to al-Musawwadah (p. 276).
Source: The book, The Salafi Methodology, its definition, distinct characteristics & its call towards rectification, by the Noble Shaykh Dr. Muhammad ibn ‘Umar Bazmul, pages 82-83.