Favoring the statement over the act in Hadeeth is not absolute
Fatwa No: 292912

Question

Assalaam alaikum wa rahamatullaah brothers. I heard that the hadith Qawli is more correct, or more powerful, than the hadith Amali. Maalik, may Allaah mercy upon him preferred the second option (the action of the people of Madinah) when both meet. Because our beloved prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, spent his precious last days with the Companions in Madina and their method of worship in our religion is more actual than a hadith that may contradict it. How can I combine between the two? Thank you, and may Allah protect and bless us and our scholars.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

First of all, you should know – dear brother – that the authenticity and strength of the hadeeth is based on looking at the chain of narrators, regardless of whether the hadeeth is about an act of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) or his saying. If there is any contradiction between two ahaadeeth – even if one of them is a saying and the other is an act – and it is possible to reconcile between them, then it is an obligation to reconcile between them, as stated by the scholars. because acting according to both ahaadeeth is more appropriate than neglecting one of them.

Al-Hafith al-Iraaqi said in Sharh al-Alfiyyah:

If we find two ahaadeeth whose apparent meaning is different from one another, then it is one of two cases: either one can reconcile between them in a way that negates the difference between them, or not. If this was possible in a correct manner, then it is an obligation to reconcile between them in order to avoid the contradiction or abrogation while there is a possibility of reconciling between them...” 

If it is not possible to reconcile between them, then it is inevitable to consider one of them as more preponderant than the other.

There are many ways of considering one of them as more preponderant, and they have been mentioned by the scholars, such as favoring the recent one over the old one, and favoring the mutawaatir hadeeth (i.e. that is narrated by an amount of people that it is impossible that they all agreed to lie) over the aahaad hadeeth, and favoring the saying over the act. It seems that this is what you meant by saying that the hadeeth regarding the saying (qawli) is more authentic and more powerful than the hadeeth regarding an act ('amali).

Al-Lumma’ fi Usool al-Fiqh authored by Ash-Shiraazi reads:

If there is a contradiction between a statement and an action in meaning, then there are many views regarding this: some of our scholars said, 'It is more appropriate to act according to the saying,' and some of them said, 'It is more appropriate to act according to the act,' and some of them said, 'They are equal,' but the first is more correct because the principle in clarifying something is the statement: Do you not see that a statement can also apply to others with its wording whereas the act cannot apply to others except with evidence, so the statement comes in priority.” 

However, favoring the statement over the act is not absolute, as the books of the Sunnah stated some cases where there is a contradiction between the statement and the act and where the statement is favored over the act. Among the scholars who mentioned this is Ash-Shawkaani  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him in his book entitled Irshaad al-Fuhool ila Tahqeeq al-Haqq min ‘Ilm al-Usool, as he entitled a chapter about the ruling regarding the contradiction between the statement and the act. He stated that this contradiction is of many categories, and there are cases in each category, and in some of them the statement is favored over the act.

Also, among the ways of considering which one is the more preponderant according to many scholars that Ash-Shawkaani stated, and which you referred to in the question, is considering the hadeeth that corresponds to the action of the people of Madeenah over the action of other people, and they consider that if the hadeeth is supported by the action of the people of Madeenah, then it is more preponderant because the revelation came down in Madeenah.

Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said:

If there are two contradicting pieces of evidence on one issue, like two ahaadeeth and two inferences, while it is not known which one is more preponderant than the other, and the people of Madeenah act according to one of them, then which one is more preponderant? There is a difference of opinion about it:

The view of Maalik and ash-Shafi'i is that the one according to which the people of Madeenah act is more preponderant, whereas the view of Abu Haneefah is that it is not considered as more preponderant just because the people of Madeenah acted according to it.

The companions of Ahmed have two opinions:

One view, which is the view of al-Qaadi Abu Ya’la and Ibn ‘Aqeel, is that it is not considered more preponderant.

The second view, which is the view of Abul-Khattaab and others, is that it is considered preponderant if the people of Madeenah acted according to it. It was said: This is explicitly stated by Ahmad, as he [Ahmad] said, ‘If the people of Madeenah acted according to a hadeeth, then it is the target [the one to be acted upon].' He [Ahmad] used to issue fataawa according to the view of the people of Madeenah, and he favored it over the view of the people of Iraq, and he established this in many issues.” 

As for how to reconcile between the two views, the answer is that if it is possible to reconcile between them in case the statement of the hadeeth corresponds to the people of Madeenah, so in this case, there are two reasons for considering it preponderant, but if the statement is different from the action of the people of Madeenah, then in this case, there is a difference of opinion, and it may be that combining between them is impossible and in this case, it is inevitable that one outweighs the other.

Allaah Knows best.

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