In Volume V of his autobiography “Aap Beti” Qutbul Aqtab Shaikhul Hadith Hadhrat Maulana Muhammad Zakariya Kandhlawi (r.a.) himself writes:
[...] In both Deoband and Saharanpur, there were many Ahlul-Hadith students, but they never disclosed their adherence to the Ahlul-Hadith.
I told them not to hide their mazhab from me. They could come to my house at any time to discuss their problems. Some students (may Allah reward them) came to me to be connected in bay’at.
Some of them even suggested that I should demand of them, they would stop ‘raf-ul-yadayn’, ‘ameen-bil-jahr’ etc., but I told them: “You people are doing those thing in your earnest desire to implement Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam’s commands and practices. How can I ever prohibit you from doing so?”
Subhan’Allah, our Akabirs in general were so moderate and didn’t condemn people for interpreting Islam a different way. Indeed as long as someone is trying to satisfy Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala through his actions, he shouldn’t be stopped or criticised as long as his action aren’t against Shari’ah, harm other people or fall in the category of bidas (innovations).
A few pages later Shaikhul Hadith Maulana Zakariya Sahab (r.a.) writes down his thoughts in general abut “the Ahlul Hadith and us”.
I have no enmity with any Ahul Hadith scholars, so long as they do not use any insulting or degrading words against our Imams. In my mind ‘Shari’at’ is only that which is contained in Allah’s word and the words and practices of His Messenger Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam. But in acting on the Hadith and in cross examining the Hadith, the research of the Imams is much more preferable to the research of a novice like myself. Then also, the era of the Imams was nearer to the era of the scholars of Hadith. For this reason the verdict of the Imams are more acceptable in the rejection and acceptance of Hadith than even the verdict of Muhadditheen and our research.
Imam Ahmed Hanbal is Imam Bukhari’s most noted teacher and Ustad, while Imam Ahmad is Imam Shafi’ee’s most prominent student. Imam Shafi’ee agan is the most famous student of Imam Malik. Imam Shafi’ee is on record as having said that he became a Jurist after studying the kitabs of Imam Muhammad the famous student of Imam Abu Hanifa. Furthermore there are twenty two chains of transmissions of Hadith in Bukhari Shareef, each consisting of three persons only, leading up to Rasulullah Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam. Of these twenty two, twenty of them contains transmitters, who are either students of Abu Hanifa or students of his students. As for us of this era, we are like a monkey who sits down with a piece of ginger and then calls himself a green-grocer.