Imaam Qawaam as-Sunnah Imaam Abul Qasim al-Asbahaanee (d.535H) said,
“We saw the Ashaabul Hadeeth, and they travelled far and wide to collect the narrations, then they sifted out the weak ones from the authentic narrations, they compiled them and they memorised them. The Ashaabul hadeeth (Ahlul Hadith) then acted upon these narrations and they promoted and spread these narrations this being their dawah and they used the narrations of the Messenger of Allah sallahu alaihi wasallam to refute the mukhaalifeen (the opposers).
These Ashaabul Hadeeth had with them a vast amount of authentic narrations just like the cloth seller has clothes, the one who sells dates has dates, and the one who sells perfume has perfume! So the one who sold dates becomes known as the date seller and the one who sells clothes becomes known as the clothes seller and the one who sells perfume becomes known as the perfume seller, then similarly the Ashabul Hadith and the scholars of hadith became known as the Ahlul Hadith.
When these Ahlul Hadith saw people going away from the ma’roof (that which was known by way of necessitating and following the Messenger of Allah sallahu alaihi wasallam) and they could see people leaving the authentic narrations and they could see people from the various sects making tanqeed and making disparaging remarks against the narrations the scholars of hadeeth began to refute these people and began to warn against them in their gatherings. The Ahlul Hadith began to mention the real meanings of the words of the Messenger of Allah sallahu alaihi wasallam as they ought to have been understood.
So it is fair to say from this evidence that the scholars of hadith who authored all of the works in promoting the ittiba (following) of the Messenger of Allah sallahu alaihi wasallam in reality they are the Ahlus Sunnah and have more of a right to call themselves the Ahlus Sunnah then any other person or group and this is because according to the scholars the real meaning of Sunnah is to follow the authentic chain of narration (hadeeth) from the Messenger of Allah sallahu alaihi wasallam concerning the ahkaam and to act upon that and to stay away from that which has come by way of a forbiddance in these narrations. Thus this is a clear evidence to say that the Ahlul Hadith, Ashabul Hadith are actually none other than the Ahlus Sunnah themselves.
If someone was to say that if this is the case then every other sect other than the Ahlul Hadith also mention various narrations as evidences for their beliefs and their actions then what do we say about them? Then our response is, that those which in opposition to an authentic narration bring a weak narration, in opposition to a complete narration, bring a mursal (an incomplete) narration, in opposition to a marfoo’ narration (a narration that reaches with complete chain the Messenger of Allah sallahu alaihi wasallam) bring a mawqoof narration (that which does not reach the Prophet sallahu alaihi wasallam but a companion) then they cannot be on the same level as the Ahlul Hadith whichever sect they may be from!
The one who follows the Messenger of Allah sallahu alaihi wasallam based on the authentic narrations he is the one who is following a clear evidence and he is the one who is taking his understanding from the authentic narrations, not from the weak or the incomplete narrations which cannot be in comparison to those narrations which are authentic.
Thus it is clear that the Ahlus Sunnah is the one who will follow the authentic narrations and go out of his way to follow the authentic narration over and above any other narration or saying, whereas those who are ahlul rai (people of opinion and conjecture) they only follow the narrations which fit well within their hearts and minds.”
(al-Hujjah Fee Bayanil Mahajjah (3:413-414)
1. Read this a few times, this statement of this great imam of the Ahlul Hadith and Ahlus Sunnah is self explanatory and a slap in the face of those tho mock the Ahlul Hadith and say "these ahle hadis from the sub continent..." trying to make out they are different, different in that they have no shame in saying oh read the book of Ahlul Bidah and even promoting their scholars.
This new wave of individuals portraying themselves as Ahlul Hadith and they are more harmful to Ahlus Sunnah than Ahlul Bidah are.