Aside from taking ‘uloom from Imam al Malik rahimahullah, Imam Shafi‘i rahimahullah aslo sat at the feet of one of the most prominent students of Imam Abu Haneefah rahimahullah (i.e. Imam Muhammad al Shaybani rahimahullah).
He mentioned thus, “I have learnt tantamount to the weight hauled by a strong camel from Imam Muhammad al Shaybani rahimahullah, and this is what I have learnt by myself.”
What he meant was that this is the amount of knowledge of Imam Muhammad al Shaybani rahimahullah which he learnt from his books, whereas the knowledge acquired from the actual sittings of Imam Muhammad al Shaybani rahimahullah are besides this.
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Ishaaq ibn Raahwayh rahimahulla (a very prominent muhaddith) mentions that during their stay in Makkah al Mukarramah, their companions included Imam al Shafi‘i rahimahullah and Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal rahimahullah. Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal rahimahullah said to me, “O Abu Ya‘qub, you should sit by this fellow (i.e. Imam al Shafi‘i rahimahullah).”
I said, “What benefit is there in that? He is my contemporary and [how can I do so] leaving out Ibn ‘Uyaina and Sa ‘eed al Maqbari rahimahumullah (two other giants in hadeeth)?
Imam Ahmed rahimahullah said, “You will lose out on the fiqh of Imam al Shafi‘i while you have already taken the ahadeeth of the two mashayikh [i.e. Ibn ‘Uyaina and Sa ‘eed al Maqbari rahimahumullah]
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Fadl ibn Zeyad al Bazzaar rahimahullah mentions that I went out finding Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal rahimahullah at the time of Hajj and found him seated in the gathering of Imam al Shafi‘i rahimahullah. Imam al Shafi‘i rahimahullah was a young lad at that time, hence I inquired from Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal rahimahullah as to why he left out the gatherings of the muhadditheen likes of Ibn ‘Uyaina, Zuhri and ‘Amr ibn Dinaar rahimahumullah.
He answered, “Be quiet. Even If you do not find a hadeeth of higher sanad, there is still a chance that you will find with a lower sanad. However, if you miss out on the intellect of this fellow, you will not find it elsewhere.”
Fuqaha’ have mentioned that we learn from the insight of Imam Ahmed rahimahullah that the level of Fiqh and understanding of the hadeeth is hhigher than acquisition of the isnaad of ahadeeth. Hence the benefit of a gathering of a faqeeh is also higher than mere recital of hadeeth [wherein the understanding is not guaranteed].
[adapted from Huliyatul Imam al Shafi‘i rahimahullah]