ʿAbdullāh b. Mas’ūd – Allāh be pleased with him – said, “Verily, Allāh looked inside the hearts of people and found the heart of Muhammad – Allāh’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 Allāh looked inside the hearts of people after Muhammad – Allāh’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 Allāh, and what they regard as evil is evil with Allāh. And the Companions unanimously chose to take Abū Bakr – Allāh be pleased with him – as the successor [to lead the Muslims after the Prophet].”
Reported by Ahmad, Al-Tayālisī and others, excluding the last sentence. Shaykh Al-Albānī graded its chain of transmission hasan. The narration is reported with the last sentence by Al-Hākim, who said its chain of transmission is sahīh. Al-Dhahabī agrees, while Al-Hāfidh Al-Sakhāwī said, “It is mawqūf (reported as a statement of a Companion), hasan.” See Al-Albānī, Al-Da’īfah Vol. 2 pp17-19.
This narration emphasizes the significance of the understanding and consensus of the Companions, Allāh be pleased with them all. It highlights their superiority and authority as the ministers of Allāh’s Messenger, Allāh’s peace and blessings be upon him.
After his analysis of this narration’s veracity, Shaykh Al-Albānī 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 hadīth, 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 hadīth when this issue is brought up. However, they miss the following points…” These are summarized below:
 This narration is mawqūf (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 – Allāh’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’ūd’s line of reasoning about the Companions’ consensus over selecting Abū 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-muqallidūn) who have closed on themselves the door to understanding the religion from Allāh and His Messenger included amongst them? Are they those who claim the door to ijtihād has been locked? For sure they are not included, and here is why:
Al-Hāfidh Ibn ʿAbd Al-Barr states in Jāmi’ Bayān 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-ittibā’). 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 mujtahidūn, interpreting and misinterpreting to justify the bid’ah that many laypeople practice!
And Allāh knows best.