Moulana Sarfaraaz Khan (Rahmatullahi Alayh) writes: “I have a sincere Deeni conscious friend whose daughter-in-law claimed to follow the Hadith. It was her practise that whenever she required a compulsory ghusal (bath) she would merely throw three handfuls of water over her body. She insisted that the Hadith of Saheeh Bukhaari only instructs one to throw three hands full of water over the head for a fardh (obligatory) ghusl and that there is no need to pour water over the entire body. This became such a serious problem that it led to divorce. The Hadith which she referred to does appear in Saheeh Bukhaari (1/39) where Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said whilst indicating with both his hands: ‘I pour water over my head thrice.’ However, this is one portion of the Hadith. The detailed narration which appears in the very same chapter after a few lines explains the procedure, where it says that thereafter he (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) poured water over his entire body. (Bukhaari 1/39)” (Al Kalaamul Mufeed, pg. 219)
A Hadith of Saheeh Bukhaari (1/250-251) states: “An Umrah in Ramadhaan equals to a Hajj with me i.e. Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam)”. Similarly another Hadith states: “The one who performs Fajr Salaah in congregation and thereafter sits till sunrise remembering Allah Ta’ala and performs two rakaats of nafl Salaah, he would attain the reward of a complete Hajj and Umrah (Sunan Tirmidhi 1/130)”. If a person looks at the apparent meaning of these two Ahaadith without the medium of an Imaam, he would conclude that there is no need for him to perform his fardh Hajj, since he has already attained the reward of a complete Hajj and a Hajj with Rasulullah (Sallahu Alayhi Wasallam). If he refers to an Imaam, he would explain that these Ahaadith only refer to the reward of Hajj. However, these actions do not absolve him from the obligation which still remains on him.
Another real example of the above is: Once a man (who was going for Umrah) came to an Aalim and said: “The Hadith says that one Salaah in Makkah Mukarramah equals one hundred thousand Salaah elsewhere (Sunan Ibni Majah Pg. 101). So if I perform one qadhaa Salaah there, won’t it compensate for all my qadhaa Salaah?” The Aalim replied: “If your deduction is correct, then not only will it compensate for your past Salaahs, rather there will be no need for you to perform any more Salaah in the future as well”. Thereafter he explained to him that this only refers to the reward and not the obligation.
From these examples we understand that referring directly to the Qur’an and Hadith without the medium of an Imaam is detrimental to our Deen. In the first situation, the woman’s ghusl was incorrect. Hence none of her Salaahs would be accepted. In the second example, the person would have discarded the fifth pillar of Islaam. In the third situation the person would end up discarding Salaah completely.
Note: When such great luminaries in the field of Hadith, the likes of Imaam Abu Dawood and Imaam Tirmizi (Rahmatullahi Alayhima) who compiled books on Hadith, likewise experts like Allama Nawawi and Hafiz Ibn Hajar Asqalaani who prepared extensive commentaries on Bukhari and Muslim (which run into volumes) confined themselves to following one of the four Imaams, then how can a layman of this era who refers to a mere translation of these very books of Hadith regard himself absolved of following an Imaam?