Questioner: In the past we read in some hadiths that the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم uncovered his thigh and that when the Companions came to see him, Abu Bakr, then Umar [he didn’t do anything, but] when Uthmaan entered he covered it, can’t it be understood from this that uncovering the thigh is permissible?
Al-Albaani: This incident cannot be used to establish a stance to be adopted as part of one’s life, may Allaah bless you, it is limited to this occurrence, we’re talking about social life in general, which the Muslim youth has to live by.
Questioner: I’m with you on that.
Al-Albaani: Be patient. When the Messenger عليه السلام would sit with his Companions and travel with them, pray with them, were his thighs uncovered? Obviously, the answer is no.
These people are uncovered and they pray like that especially when, during games, prayer time comes by and they want to pray.
[And the point I’m going to mention now] is knowledge which we must revive: that the common approach the Messenger عليه السلام took in his life is what we take, as for something he would do whose occurrence was rare, then it is possible that in most cases such a thing has a reason or situation which required the Messenger عليه السلام to leave the norm, and what we are talking about now is an example of that.
So far be it for the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم to be among his Companions and to enter the mosque or to sit somewhere whether while travelling or resident with his thighs uncovered. Yes, there is no doubt that this incident [which you mentioned] did occur, but from a fiqh perspective does this show that it is permissible for a Muslim to leave his thighs uncovered during his life in general? This may or may not prove that in specific circumstances it is permissible, like the situation [which I am about to mention and] which is not regarded as being the Messenger’s صلى الله عليه وسلم norm, do you know it?
That he was sitting with his legs hanging over the side of a well, and the weather in Medinah was hot, so he was cooling himself down, and in order to do wudoo part of his thigh was uncovered , this incident does not represent the Prophet’s عليه السلام life, it represents that particular situation he was in.
Yet having said that, there is a knowledge-based point here [which we need to understand]. When the Prophet عليه السلام performed an action and he explained that Allaah’s Legislation for the Ummah is different to that, and in the words of the scholars of fiqh: if his statements oppose his actions then which of them are given precedence?
His statements are given precedence over his actions. Because a statement is universal legislation, it may be possible that an action was carried out due to a particular excuse or due to it being a characteristic exclusive to him, and it is [also] possible that it occurred before a legislative ruling about it was revealed.
For example, we have a hadith in which it is mentioned that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم gave a sermon to the people while he was wearing a ring made out of gold, are we now going to say, ‘It is permissible to wear a ring made out of gold,’ because the Prophet wore it? No, he wore it at a time when it was permissible.
You know that the major Companions used to drink wine, and there is a very unusual story which is not well-known amongst the people, it is reported in Sahih Bukhari. The Companions were in a house, drunk, when Ali came and knelt his camels down by the house. His uncle Hamzah came out and cut open their stomachs, when Ali saw that he was extremely upset and went to the Prophet عليه السلام and told him what had happened. The Prophet عليه السلام came to his uncle and reprimanded him for what he had done.
What was Hamzah’s stance? He said a statement which was such that had he said it after alcohol was made forbidden it would have caused him to have committed disbelief and would have caused him to have left the religion, he said, ‘Aren’t you but the slaves of my father?’ Hamzah is saying to his cousin and his Prophet, ‘Aren’t you but the slaves of my father?’ Why? He didn’t understand, he was drunk.
[Here is the full text of the hadith from Bukhari: “Narrated Ali, ‘I got a she-camel in my share of the war booty on the day (of the battle) of Badr, and the Prophet had given me a she-camel from the Khumus. When I intended to marry Fatima, the daughter of Allah's Apostle, I had an appointment with a goldsmith from the tribe of Bani Qainuqa' to go with me to bring Idhkhir (i.e. grass of pleasant smell) and sell it to the goldsmiths and spend its price on my wedding party. I was collecting for my she-camels equipment of saddles, sacks and ropes while my two she-camels were kneeling down beside the room of an Ansari man.
I returned after collecting whatever I collected, to see the humps of my two she-camels cut off and their flanks cut open and some portion of their livers was taken out. When I saw that state of my two she-camels, I could not help weeping. I asked, “Who has done this?” The people replied, “Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib who is staying with some Ansari drunks in this house.” I went away till I reached the Prophet and Zaid bin Haritha was with him. The Prophet noticed on my face the effect of what I had suffered, so the Prophet asked. “What is wrong with you?” I replied, “O Allah's Apostle! I have never seen such a day as today. Hamza attacked my two she-camels, cut off their humps, and ripped open their flanks, and he is sitting there in a house in the company of some drunks.”
The Prophet then asked for his covering sheet, put it on, and set out walking followed by me and Zaid bin Haritha till he came to the house where Hamza was. He asked permission to enter, and they allowed him, and they were drunk. Allah's Apostle started rebuking Hamza for what he had done, but Hamza was drunk and his eyes were red.
Hamza looked at Allah's Apostle and then he raised his eyes, looking at his knees, then he raised up his eyes looking at his umbilicus, and again he raised up his eyes look in at his face. Hamza then said, “Aren't you but the slaves of my father?” Allah's Apostle realized that he was drunk, so Allah's Apostle retreated, and we went out with him.”]
Questioner: He was drunk, yes.
Al-Albaani: Yes. This was at a time in Islamic history when the legislation was still being prescribed.
For this reason, when a statement comes from the Prophet عليه السلام which opposes his action then his statement is what is relied upon because it is in the legislation, as for his actions then it is left to him عليه السلام [he may either do something] out of an excuse/specific reason, or because it is something particular to him alone, or it may have been before he made a statement about it, before something was legislated, as in the story of the alcohol and things like it.
From this type of incident is the fact that the Prophet عليه السلام was sitting at the edge of a well, with his legs hanging over the side, when Abu Bakr entered and Umar but he didn’t change the way he was, until when Uthmaan came he did so. So Sayyidah Aa’ishah said that so and so and so and so entered and you did not change the way you were but when Uthmaan entered you covered yourself? So he replied, ‘Should I not feel shy in front of someone who the Angels feel shy of?’
So it is possible that  this was before the Prophet عليه السلام said, ‘The thigh is awrah,’ and it is possible that  it was after he said it but that he had an excuse and it is possible that  there was no [specific] excuse and that it was just something exclusive to him.
Whatever the case, I was talking about some of the Islamic jamaa’ahs, how can they live with no connection between themselves and Islaam, what is the reason? It is because they have not studied Islaam.
I do not mean that it is upon every individual Muslim to become a scholar and to taken it upon himself to carry out the duty of purification [tasfiyyah], no, this must be done by the people specialising in it. So where are the specialists in these groups such that they can be nurtured upon this foundation of purification?
Take Hizb at-Tahrir for example which wants to establish an Islamic state … look at Hasan al-Banna he made a [particular] statement which is as though it is revelation from the sky but along with that his group do not implement it. That statement was, ‘Establish the state of Islaam in your hearts and it will be established for you in your lands.’
Hizb at-Tahrir do not go by this piece of wisdom at all, [instead] they say, ‘We will establish the state first and then afterwards the state will rectify the populace.’ Subhaanallaah! This is in opposition to logic and the Sunnah of the Prophet who spent long years nurturing a few individuals until a core and the foundation of the Muslim jamaa’ah was formed.
Likewise that which comes under this topic, “There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allaah an excellent example …” [Ahzaab 33:21] … you will find members of Hizb al-Tahrir … in all groups you will find people who are good and sincere and so on, but as a group they are extremely far from implementing the Islaam which is known as Islaam [i.e., the basics]; as for implementing that pure Islaam, then how far they are from it.
[The founder of Hizb al-Tahrir] Taqiyud-Deen’s books, may Allaah have mercy on him, are full of weak hadiths which have no basis, and upon them he built his ideology and established his group, such that when explaining the hadith that, ‘There is no obedience to the creation in disobedience of the Creator,’ he said it means: there is no obedience to the creation if that person who is ordering the disobedience believes that what he is ordering is actually disobedience, but if he is ordering it as a result of his own ijtihaad [and does not hold it to be disobedience] then it is not disobedience and it is obligatory to obey him.
And based upon this he made it obligatory on every individual in his group to obey their Amir and to submit to him, and not to place knowledge, i.e., the Book and the Sunnah, as a judge over him, since, ‘It is the Amir’s opinion.’
Questioner: By way of ijtihaad.
Al-Albaani: By way of ijtihaad, yes. And a debate took place between me and them, many, many debates, one of them was when we were brought together in the Al-Haskaa Prison in Syria, about fifteen of them, and so I gave them the following example.
Interjector: Should I record this, O Shaikh? [i.e., the person recording the sitting is asking whether the Shaikh wants this part where he mentioned the prison to be recorded, since it is something personal].
One of them, very zealous, came and so I said to him, ‘What do you say about his saying عليه السلام, ‘Everything which intoxicates is alcohol and all alcohol is haram,’ and ‘Whatever intoxicates in large amounts, then a small quantity of it is haram?’ He said, ‘Of course, these are authentic hadiths and I believe in them.’
I said to him, ‘What do you say, aren’t there some Imaams of the Muslims from the past who performed ijtihaad and said, ‘The alcohol whose [consumption in] small quantities is forbidden is only that which is derived from grapes, as for the alcohol which is made from other things then only the amount which intoxicates is forbidden,’ namely, if a person were to drink two bottles, three, and stayed sober then this is halaal but if he took a sip and got drunk then it is forbidden.’ I said to him, ‘What is your opinion about the scholars who say that?’ He said, ‘Yes.’
The point is I said to him, ‘If our Lord tested the Muslims with an Amir ruling over them who held this opinion, what would you do?’ He said, ‘I would obey him.’
He would obey him even though he believes this is haram, why? Because the hizb told him that, ‘If the Amir believes that it is haram he will not order you to commit a sin.’ Thus, they twisted the hadith which states that, ‘There is no obedience to the creation in disobedience of the Creator,’ [to mean that] there is no obedience to someone who orders one to commit an act of disobedience if he holds it to be a sin, as for if he does not hold it to be a sin then you have to obey him.
This has all been attributed to Islaam in the name of Islaam, and in the name of setting up an Islamic state.
And Allaah’s Aid is sought.
Al-Hudaa wan-Noor, 200.