[From Ibn Hisham:] I was al-Shafi`i’s sitting-companion for a long time, and I never heard him use except a word which, carefully considered, one would not find (in its context) a better word in the entire Arabic language. . . . Al-Shafi`i’s discourse, in relation to language, is a proof in itself.[From al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Za`farani:] A group of bedouins used to frequent al-Shafi`i’s gathering with us and sit in a corner. One day I asked their leader: "You are not interested in scholarship; why do you keep coming to sit with us?" They said: "We come to hear al-Shafi`i’s language."
"The study of hadith is better than supererogatory prayer, and the pursuit of knowledge is better than supererogatory prayer." Ibn `Abd al-Barr in Kitab al-`Ilm listed the many hadiths of the Prophet on the superior merit of knowledge. However, al-Shafi`i by this saying meant the essence and purpose of knowledge, not knowledge for its own sake which leads to Satanic pride. The latter is widely available while true knowledge is the knowledge that leads to godwariness(taqwa). This is confirmed by al-Shafi`i’s saying: "Knowledge is what benefits. Knowledge is not what one has memorized." This is a corrective for those content to define knowledge as "the knowledge of the proof" (ma`rifa al-dalîl). "He gives wisdom to whomever He will, and whoever receives wisdom receives immense good."(2:269)
"You [the scholars of hadith] are the pharmacists but we [the jurists] are the physicians." This was explained by `Ali al-Qari in his book Mu`taqad Abi Hanifa al-Imam (p. 42): "The early scholars said: The hadith scholar without knowledge of fiqh is like a seller of drugs who is no physician: he has them but he does not know what to do with them; and the fiqh scholar without knowledge of hadith is like a physician without drugs: he knows what constitutes a remedy, but does not dispose of it."
"Malik was asked about kalâm and [the Science of] Oneness (tawhîd) and he said: ‘It is inconceivable that the Prophet should teach his Community hygiene and not teach them about Oneness! And Oneness is exactly what the Prophet said: ‘I was ordered to fight people until they say ‘There is no God but Allah.’ So, whatever makes blood and property untouchable û that is the reality of Oneness (haqîqa al-tawhîd).’" This is a proof from the Salaf against those who, in later times, innovated sub-divisions for tawhîd or legislated that their own understanding of Allah’s Attributes was a precondition for the declaration of Oneness. Al-Halimi said: "In this hadith there is explicit proof that that declaration (lâ ilâha illallâh) suffices to extirpate oneself from all the different kinds of disbelief in Allah Almighty."
"Satiation weighs down the body, hardens the heart, does away with sagacity, brings on sleep, and weakens one from worship." This is similar to the definition of tasawwuf as "hunger" (al-jû`) given by some of the early masters, who acquired hunger as a permanent attribute and were called "hungerers" (jû`iyyûn). A notable example is al-Qasim ibn `Uthman al-`Abdi al-Dimashqi al-Ju`i (d. 248), whom al-Dhahabi describes as "the Imam, the exemplar, the wali, themuhaddith, the shaykh of the Sufis and the friend of Ahmad ibn al-Hawari."
"I never swore by Allah - neither truthfully nor deceptively." This is similar to the saying of the Sufi master Sahl ibn `Abd Allah al-Tustari narrated by al-Dhahabi: "Among the manners of the truthful saints (al-siddîqîn) is that they never swear by Allah, nor commit backbiting, nor does backbiting take place around them, nor do they eat to satiation, if they promise they are true to their word, and they never speak in jest."
Al-Buwayti asked: "Should I pray behind the Rafidi?" Al-Shafi`i said: "Do not pray behind the Rafidi, nor behind theQadari, nor behind the Murji’." Al-Buwayti said: "Define them for us." He replied: "Whoever says ‘Belief consists only in speech’ is a Murji’, and whoever says ‘Abu Bakr and `Umar are not Imams’ is a Rafidi, and whoever attributes destiny to himself is a Qadari."