Know that the scholars of the Hanafee school of thought maintain that Imaam at-Tirmidhee was of the Shaafi’ee school of thought and some of them say that he was Hanbalee and this is their statement of which their mouths have put forth and falsehood that which they claim! For the truth of the matter is that he was neither Shaafi’ee nor Hanbalee, just as he was neither Maalikee, nor Hanafee. Rather, he was - may Allaah have mercy upon him - from the people of hadeeth; adhering to the Sunnah, working by it. He was a mujtahid, not a blind follower of any one from the people. And this is apparent to any one who has read his Jaami’ and has examined it and reflected upon it. And what is astonishing is how they maintain that he was Shaafi’ee or Hanbalee. Did they not know that if he was Shaafi’ee, blindly following Imaam ash-Shaafi’ee he would have given precedence to the madhhab of his Imaam, ash-Shaafi’ee, in all of the issues where there is difference of opinion or most of them over the other madhhabs and he would have supported it and aided it as is the case with those who blindly follow, but he did not, rather he refuted the statement of ash-Shaafi’ee in many places in his book. Do you not see that in the chapter of the delaying of Salaatudh-Dhuhr in the extreme heat after the narration of al-Ibraad,
“...and a number of the people of knowledge have preferred the delaying of Salaatudh- Dhuhr in extreme heat, from them: Ibnul-Mubaarak and Ahmad and Ishaaq. Ash-Shaafi’ee said, “Certainly al-Ibraad  for Salaatudh-Dhuhr is only if the people find difficulty due to distance from the mosque. As for the one who prays alone or prays in the mosque of his people then that which I like for him is not to delay the salaat in the extreme heat.” As for those who have chosen to delay Salaatul-Dhuhr in the extreme heat this is more appropriate closer to the adherence of the Sunnah. As for the opinion of Imaam ash-Shaafi’ee, that the permission to delay is for one affected by distance from the mosque because of the difficulty upon the people, verily what is in the hadeeth of Aboo Dharr points to the opposite of what Imaam ash-Shaafi’ee said. Aboo Dharr said, “We were with the Prophet in a journey, so Bilaal called the adhaan for Salaatul-Dhuhr. The Prophet said, “ O Bilaal, when it is cool, when it is cool.” So if the matter was as Imaam ash-Shaafi’ee says, there would have been no reason for al-Ibraad at that time due to their all being together while on a journey so there was no difficulty upon them due to distance.” Do they not have knowledge that he (at-Tirmidhee) said in the chapter of the one who prays the obligatory Prayer then goes to lead the people after that, “This is the practice of our companions, ash-Shaafi’ee, Ahmad and Ishaaq,” and he says in the chapter of the man who accepts Islaam and has ten women,  “... the practice upon the hadeeth of Ghaylaan with our companions from them ash-Shaafi’ee  and Ahmad and Ishaaq.” He says in the chapter of what has come in regards to the Prayer in the dwellings of sheep and the resting places of camels,  “And upon this is the practice of our companions and the saying of Ahmad and Ishaaq.” So these statements of at-Tirmidhee are a clear illustration that Imaam at-Tirmidhee was not Shaafi’ee nor was he Hanbalee so the statement of the one who claims this has been clearly negated. So if you ask what is intended by his statement “our companions,” I say, Imaam Aboo ’Eesaa at-Tirmidhee was from the people of hadeeth and his madhhab was that of the people of hadeeth, so the intention of his statement “our companions” was Ahlul-Hadeeth. Al-Qaaree said in al- Mirqaat Sharhul-Mishkaat, an explanation of the statement of at-Tirmidhee “...he is considered weak amongst our companions, that is, the people of hadeeth.” I say this is the truth of the matter of which the aforementioned statements of at-Tirmidhee points to.
Some of the Hanafiyyah say in their commentary on Jaami’ut-Tirmidhee, “As for the madhhab of the authors of as-Sihah it is said that al-Bukharee (d.256H) was Shaafi’ee, but the truth of the matter is that al-Bukharee was mujtahid. As for Muslim I am not certain to what his madhhab was. As for Ibn Maajah, perhaps he was Shaafi’ee and that at-Tirmidhee was Shaafi’ee. As for Aboo Daawood and an-Nisaa‘ee, what is commonly understood is that they were Shaafi’ee. The truth of the matter is that they were Hanbalee. Certainly the books of Hanbalee fiqh are filled with the narration’s of Aboo Daawood on Imaam Ahmad.”
I say just as al-Bukhaaree – may Allaah have mercy upon him - was a follower of the Sunnah, adhering to it, a mujtahid, not a blind follower of any of the four imaams or other than them. So was the case with Muslim and Aboo Daawood and an-Nisaa‘ee and Ibn Maajah. All of them were followers of the Sunnah, working by it, not blind followers of any of the people. As for the conclusion that Aboo Daawood and an-Nisaa‘ee were Hanbalee by the fact that the books of Hanbalee fiqh are filled with the narration’s of Aboo Daawood on Ahmad, than this is baseless! Even if the books of Hanbalee fiqh were filled with the narration’s of Abee Daawood, this does not necessitate the fact that he was Hanbalee, do you not see that the books of Hanafee fiqh are filled with narration’s of Imaam Abee Yoosuf and Imaam Muhammad, and with that they were not considered Hanafee, blind followers of Abee Haneefah.
Know that these few have claimed that Aboo Daawood and an-Nisaa‘ee were blindly following Imaam Ahmad absolutely, without restriction, then condescended from this statement after taking heed. He says elsewhere in his commentary on Jaami’ut-Tirmidhee, “Yahyaa Ibn Ma’een was of the Hanafee madhhab, as found in at-Taareekh of Ibnul- Khalkaan, except the taqleed of the Salaf was the taqleed of the ijtihaadaat of which there was nothing established in it from the marfoo’ (suspended) or mawqoof (stopped), not like the taqleed of ours, and this is my belief.”
I say there is no established proof that Imaam Aboo Daawood and an-Nisaa‘ee were blind followers of Imaam Ahmad in the ijtihaadaat and certainly this is only their conjecture and certainly conjecture is no substitute for the truth! And as for his statement, “As for Ibn Maajah perhaps he was Shaafi’ee,” points to the fact that they have no proof that Ibn Maajah was Shaafi’ee. One of the Hanafiyyah says in the introduction to the explanation of Saheeh Muslim, “Some of those skilled in the knowledge of the narrations say, as for al- Bukhaaree and Aboo Daawood they were imaams in fiqh, from the people of ijtihaad. As for Muslim, at-Tirmidhee, an-Nisaa‘ee (d.303H), Ibn Maajah, Ibn Khuzaymah, Aboo Ya’laa, al-Bazzaar and the likes of them, they are from the madhhab of the people of hadeeth, not blindly following anyone from the people, nor were they absolutely from the people of ijtihaad. Rather, they leaned towards the statement of the imaams of hadeeth, like ash-Shaafi’ee (d.204H) and Ahmad and Ishaaq and Abee ’Ubayd and those who are like them. And they are closer to the madhhab of the people of Hijaaz than the madhhab of the people of al-’Iraaq. As for Aboo Daawood at-Tiyaalisee, he preceded all of them being from the generation of Yahyaa Ibn Sa’eed al-Qattaan and Yazeed Ibn Haaroon al-Waasitee and ’Abdur-Rahman al-Mahdee and the likes of them from the generation of the teachers of Imaam Ahmad. And all of them went to the greatest efforts in the following the Sunnah. Although there were from them who leaned toward the madhhab of the people of al-’Iraaq, like Wakee’ and Yahyaa Ibn Sa’eed, and from them those who leaned toward the madhhab of the people of al-Madeenah, like ’Abdur-Rahmaan al-Mahdee. As for ad-Daaraqutnee, he leaned towards the madhhab of ash-Shaafi’ee, though he was one who made ijtihaad, and he was from the imaams of hadeeth and Sunnah. His situation was not like some who came after him from the Scholars of Hadeeth, adhering to taqleed (blind-following) in general, except in a few instances of which can be counted. And certainly ad-Daaraqutnee was stronger in ijtihaad more knowledgeable.” And he said, “And what is apparent is that Aboo Daawood was closer to being Hanbalee, for certainly the books of Hanbalee fiqh are filled with his narrations upon Ahmad.” His quoting from al-A’rfush-Shaadhee, and you have already learned the response to it. So if you ask, if Imaam al-Bukhaare was not Shaafi’ee following Imaam ash-Shaafi’ee then why did they consider him Shaafi’ee and why is he mentioned in the Tabaqaatush-Shaafi’iyyah? Al-’Allaamah Shaah Waliyyullaah ad-Dihlawee states in his Hujjatullahul-Baalighah, “Perhaps the people of hadeeth would be attributed to one of the schools of thought due to his agreement with it in many issues. Like an-Nisaa‘ee and al- Bayhaqee were attributed to ash-Shaafi’ee.” And he states in his work titled al-Insaaf, “What is meant by the attribution to the Shaafi’ee madhhab is that he follows him in principals of exploration of the evidences (usool), and it’s classification. And if he sometimes differs with this there is no concern because of it, and he does not stray from this methodology except in some issues, and it does not affect his being considered from the Shaafi’ee madhhab. And like this al-Imaam al-Bukhaaree (d.256H), for he is counted from the Tabaqaatush-Shaafi’iyyah by Shaykh Taajud-Deen as-Subkee, he said, “He took knowledge from al- Humaydee and al-Humaydee took knowledge from ash-Shaafi’ee.”
Al-’Allaamah Shaykh Ismaa’eel al-’Ijloonee states
in his book, al-Fawaa‘idud-Daraaree his explanation on what has preceded
on al-Bukhaaree taking from al-Karabeesee and az-Za’faraanee and Aboo Thawr
making him Shaafi’ee, and they differ in what his madhhab was. And it is
said that he was Shaafi’ee in his madhhab, and as-Subkee went to this in
his Tabaqaatush-Shaafi’yyah and he states, “Certainly he heard from
al-Karabeesee and Abee Thawr and az-Za’faraanee and took knowledge from al-Humaydee,
all of them are from the companions of ash-Shaafi’ee.” And it is stated
that he was Hanbalee. Abul-Hasan Ibnul- ’Iraaqi mentioned him in the companions
of Imaam Ahmad. Then he brought the narration from al-Bukharee that he said,
“I entered Baghdaad eight times and every time I sat with Ahmad ibn Hanbal,
and he said to me the last time I left him, “O Abaa ’Abdullah will you leave
the knowledge and the people and travel to Khurasaan?” And al-Bukharee said,
“I now recall his statement.” And it is said he was mujtahid, this is the
choice of as-Sakhaawee, he said, “And I lean toward the fact that he was mujtahid.”
This was clearly stated by Taqiyyud-Deen Ibn Taymiyyah, he said, “Certainly
he was an Imaam in fiqh for reason of ijtihaad.
1. The following is taken from Tuhfatul-Ahwadhee (1/351)
2. Delaying the Prayer from the time of extreme heat until when it has become cool. It is collected by al-Bukhaaree (no. 532, 528, 621, 895, 3188), Muslim (no. 135) Aboo Daawood (no. 401), at-Tirmidhee (no. 157, 158), Ahmad (6/129, 202, 222). It is also related in the Saheeh of Ibn Khuzaimah ( no. 330, 397, 1843), Sunanul-Kubraa (2/220), (4/422, 423), the Saheeh of Ibn Hibbaan (no. 1802) and in the Musannaf of Ibn Abee Shaybah (1/321).
3. Related by at-Tirmidhee (no. 1125). He said, Hannaad narrated that ’Abdah narrated upon Sa’eed Ibn Abee Arubah upon az-Zuhree upon Saalim Ibn ’Abdullaah upon Ibn ’Umar, that Ghaylaan Ibn Salamah ath-Thaqafee accepted Islaam and had ten women in al-Jaahiliyyah, and they accepted Islaam with him. So the Prophet commanded him to chose four [from them]. It was also collected by Ibn Maajah (no. 2010), Ahmad (2/79, 81, 131, 198), al-Muwattaa (no. 1250), the Saheeh of Ibn Hibbaan (no. 4080, 4081, 4082), the Sunanul-Kubraa of al-Bayhaqee (10/378, 442, 443, 444, 445, 447), al-Haakim in al-Mustadrak (2/209, 210) and ad-Daraqutnee in his Sunan (no. 3617, 3618, 3619, 3620, 3628).
4. He says, “The chapter of what has come in the prohibition of the sale of wheat for grain and the sale of dates for raisins.” It was reported to us by Qutaybah that Ya’qoob Ibn ’Abdur-Rahmaan related to us upon Suhayl Ibn Abee Saalih from his father upon Abee Hurayrah he said, “The Prophet , prohibited the sale of wheat for grain and dates for raisins (dried dates). It is also collected by al-Bukhaaree in his Saheeh (no.2160, 2179), and Muslim (no. 3862,3865,3867, 3887), Aboo Daawood (no.3402, 3405, 3406), the Musnad of Imaam Ahmad (1/368,510), (2/551,603), (3/478), (4/249,333,379), an-Nisaa‘ee (no. 3890, 3894, 3895, 3896, 3897, 3900, 3903, 4518, 4580, 4616), Ibn Maajah (no. 2331, 2332, 2517, and 2523).
5. It is related
by Imaam at-Tirmidhee (no. 348, 349). He says, “It was related to us by Aboo
Kurayb, he said it was reported to us by Yahyaa Ibn Aadam on Abee Bakr Ibn
Abbaas on Hishaam on Ibn Seereen upon Abee Hurayrah he said that the Prophet said, “Pray in the dwellings of sheep and
do not pray in the resting places of the camels.” Imaam at-Tirmidhee said,
“This hadeeth is Hasan Saheeh.”