‘We were with al-Shafi’i one day when an old man wearing garments of wool came to us with a walking-stick in his hand. Al-Shafi’i stood up, fixed his clothes and greeted the old man. He sat down and al-Shafi’i began looking at him in admiration when the man said:
Old man: Can I ask?
Old man: What is the Hujjah (evidence) in the religion of Allah?
Al-Shafi’i: The Book of Allah.
Old man: What else?
Al-Shafi’i: The Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam).
Old man: What else?
Al-Shafi’i: The consensus of the Ummah.
Old man: Where did you get ‘consensus of the Ummah’ from? (i.e. what’s your evidence).
Al-Shafi’i pondered for a moment when the old man said:
Old man: I will leave you for 3 days. If you come up with evidence from the Book of Allah, fine. If not, then repent to Allah Ta’ala.
Al-Shafi’i’s face changed colour and then he left. He didn’t come out until the third day, between dhuhr and ‘asr. His face, hands and legs had swollen and he became ill. He sat down but it was only a short while when the old man returned. He greeted him and sat down then he said,
Old man: Do you have what I asked for?
أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم
I seek refuge in Allah from Satan, the outcast.
Allah, the Most High said:
وَمَن يُشَاقِقِ الرَّسُولَ مِن بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُ الْهُدَى وَيَتَّبِعْ غَيْرَ سَبِيلِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ نُوَلِّهِ مَا تَوَلَّى وَنُصْلِهِ جَهَنَّمَ وَسَاءتْ مَصِيراً
“And whoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger after the right path has been shown clearly to him, and follows other than the way of the believers, We shall keep him on the path he has chosen, and burn him in Hell – and what an evil destination.” [al-Nisa: 115]
… And He (Allah `azza wa jall) will not burn him in Hell for opposing the believers in something except that it is something obligatory.’
Old man: You have told the truth.
Then he got up and left.
Al-Shafi’i then said to those around him: I read the Qur’an 3 times every day (in the 3 days he was given), until I came to this verse.’
– Siyar A’lam al-Nubala-