From: “M. Afifi al-Akiti”
Regarding Kissing the Thumbs etc. during Adhan
I am aware that a number of muhaddiths (such as Ibn Tahir al-Zahiri, our al-Sakhawi and al-Shawkani) have considered this Hadith [of Kissing the Thumbs] to be inauthentic (all using the phrase: lA taSiHu; although “not Sahih”, they nevertheless did not use the stronger term “bATil”, for example) and some modern Muhaddith as outright mawdu’ (al-Albani & co) even when Mulla ‘Ali himself did not declare it as Mawdu’ (as he would elsewhere in this work for other sayings) and rather he himself left open the possibility that it could very well be a Sunnah of the Four Khulafa’. But yes, the saying is still problematic.
However, despite the strict assessment of this Hadith by the Muhaddiths and the possible attribution of it to Khidr (alayhissalam) and the uncertain attribution of this ‘amal to the Siddiq (radiyallahu ‘anh), one must balance this with the tahqiq of jurists (ours as well as the Hanafis, for example) who have certainly been forgiving (compared to the Muhaddith’s assessment of it) regarding this ‘amal and who spoke well about it and who did not exclude it in the babs of adhan in spite of the difficulties regarding its attribution. At this point, we must remember that the ultimate reference for us on what to do/not to do (‘amal) is in the mawdu’ of fiqh and not Hadith. So when there appears to be a khilaf between the muhaddith vs. the faqih assessment of a particular ‘amal, it is always proper, wiser and safer to rely on the views of the jurists.
The way my teachers explain the cause for this kind of khilaf is that
(1) it may be that the ‘documentation’ for this ‘amal was not written down ‘properly’ or not at all in the early period (because it was not necessary to do so in the first place (and this is the reason why tadwin has a life of its own): even writing the wajibat for instance took its own course and time; this partly explains why many of the fada’il a’mal type of ‘amal are found in many of our tasawwuf literature (the mukhatabat, etc.) and there are still many fawa’id from our qutbs and their practices that have not been written down until the last day) and
(2) because there had been very little written about a particular fadila, for example, and because the ‘awamm have been practicing it through the ages (or taking practices of this kind for granted orally) until in later centuries when some people begin asking for their written references. And because Hadith scholars can only base their assessment on something written down (i.e., mansus), it is understandable that the assessment among some of them may be bleak. But because of the precedent of ‘amal, jurists on the other hand have never been quick to condemn it and solved its problematic attribution by considering it to be among the fadila (i.e., take it or leave it type of ‘amal). That is why regarding this particular ‘amal, for example, there is in the books of Hadith, the Muhaddith Qawl: “It is something not done and NOT forbidden, etc. etc.”
I have seen myself the muhaddith and faqih Sayyid Muhammad ibn ‘Alawi (the son of the author of the risalah of the quoted Manhal and later the author of the big Manhal itself) (radiyallahu ‘anhuma) doing this ‘amal in many of his majalis in Indonesia when the ‘awamm were doing it — not to mention the musnid al-‘asr al-fadani.
The reason why I have not mentioned in our article concerning the controversy surrounding its textual attribution other than to say clearly that it is not outright Mawdu’ despite some modern Muhaddith having said so is for the larger concern for:
(1) the ‘awamm who is used to practising this good ‘amal that may result in fitna and confusion for him or her and a mukhalafa qulub between their family/community/Sufi murshid and tariqa; and
(2) defending the assessment of our own jurists. We have been taught that among the adab of giving an answer with regards to practices of the fada’il type when some scholars have considered wrong but the society where one lives in practices it, for example, (and especially when the said thing is not blameworthy in itself — meaning when there is no Nass that has come down to prohibit/ discourage it), then it behoves the juristis to search for any weaker qawl to justify the practice. This is precisely what Imam Ibn Hajar means by “al-fatwa bi-ma’na l-irshad” and why Imams al-Bakri and al-Jurdani, for instance included this ‘amal in their fiqh magna opera.
The worse that can happen from this omission when scholars […] notice that I have neglected to explain this controversy, is that they can assume then that I have made taqlid of those who consider the Hadith and/or Athar (or whatever source for the ‘amal: written down, spoken of only, inspirational, or practiced) is Da’if instead of outright Mawdu’. And if they are unhappy that some still choose to follow a weaker Qawl in Hadith, then we can only say that this is the point when Muslims today have to learn to agree to disagree.