‘Abdullâh b. Mas’ûd – Allâh be pleased with him – said, “Verily, Allâh looked inside the hearts of people and found the heart of Muhammad – Allâh’s peace and blessings be upon him – to be the best of all hearts, and so He chose him for Himself and sent him with His message. Then Allâh looked inside the hearts of people after Muhammad – Allâh’s peace and blessings be upon him – and found the hearts of his Companions to be the best hearts; so He made them the ministers and representatives of His Prophet, fighting for his religion. Thus, what the Muslims regard as good is good with Allâh, and what they regard as evil is evil with Allâh. And the Companions unanimously chose to take Abû Bakr – Allâh be pleased with him – as the successor [to lead the Muslims after the Prophet].”
Reported by Ahmad, Al-Tayâlisî and others, excluding the last sentence. Shaykh Al-Albânî graded its chain of transmission hasan. The narration is reported with the last sentence by Al-Hâkim, who said its chain of transmission is sahîh. Al-Dhahabî agrees, while Al-Hâfidh Al-Sakhâwî said, “It is mawqûf (reported as a statement of a Companion), hasan.” See Al-Albânî, Al-Da’îfah Vol. 2 pp17-19.
This narration emphasizes the significance of the understanding and consensus of the Companions, Allâh be pleased with them all. It highlights their superiority and authority as the ministers of Allâh’s Messenger, Allâh’s peace and blessings be upon him.
After his analysis of this narration’s veracity, Shaykh Al-Albânî discusses its correct interpretation in the following points:
“It is amazing how some people argue for the existence of good innovations in the religion based upon this hadîth, and that the proof that these innovations are good is that the Muslims have taken them as a norm! It has become routine for them to argue on the basis of this hadîth when this issue is brought up. However, they miss the following points…” These are summarized below:
 This narration is mawqûf (a reported statement of a Companion, or someone other than the Prophet.) It therefore cannot be used as an argument to contradict unequivocal textual evidence that states “every bid’ah is misguidance,” as is authentically reported from the Prophet – Allâh’s peace and blessings be upon him.
 Even if it is supposed that this narration qualifies as a proof [on a par with the aforementioned texts], it does not in fact contradict those texts, for a number of reasons:
[a] The intended meaning is the consensus and agreement of the Companions over a matter. This is proven by the context, and is supported by Ibn Mas’ûd’s line of reasoning about the Companions’ consensus over selecting Abû Bakr as the Caliph. Therefore, “the Muslims” does not refer to all Muslims in all places and times; but instead to the Muslims of that time.
[b] If we suppose that “the Muslims” refers to Muslims in general, it definitely does not refer to every single Muslim – even the ignorant one who understands nothing about knowledge. Therefore, the statement must be interpreted to mean the knowledgeable (scholars) amongst the Muslims.
That being the case, who are these scholars? Are the blind-followers (al-muqallidûn) who have closed on themselves the door to understanding the religion from Allâh and His Messenger included amongst them? Are they those who claim the door to ijtihâd has been locked? For sure they are not included, and here is why:
Al-Hâfidh Ibn ‘Abd Al-Barr states in Jâmi’ Bayân Al-‘Ilm Vol. 2 p36, 37, “The definition of knowledge according to the scholars is whatever a person is clear and sure about. Anyone who is certain and clear about something knows it. Therefore, whoever is not certain about something but says it blindly following someone else, does not know it. Blind following is – according to the scholars – different from following (al-ittibâ’). Because following is to follow a person based on what has become clear to you of the correctness of his position, whereas blind-following is to say what he says while not understanding it or its reasoning.”
So when it comes to following the Sunnah, many of these blind-followers claim they are not qualified to go against the opinions in their schools of thought because – by their own admission – they are muqallidah, but when it comes to arguing for and supporting innovations in religion, they become mujtahidûn, interpreting and misinterpreting to justify the bid’ah that many laypeople practice!
And Allâh knows best.