…taqlid will be discussed under the following three headings:
(1) What is Taqlid;
(2) Taqlid: Following an Imam in the Matters of Shari’a;
(3) Following One Particular Imam in Every Juristic Issue.
This will hopefully remove any confusion regarding the issue of taqlid, and comfort those who seek clarification on the subject.
1. WHAT IS TAQLID?
Definition of Taqlid
Literal: Taqlid is the verbal noun derived from the Arabic root q-l-d, which means to place, gird, or adorn with a necklace.
Technical: The acceptance of another’s statement without demanding proof or evidence, on the belief that the statement is being made in accordance with fact and proof.
Taqlid in General
The faculty of taqlid is inherently existent in us. If we had refrained from the taqlid of our parents and teachers, then today we would be deprived of even the basic and preliminary needs of humanity. By nature, man is endowed with the ability to imitate and follow others. If this was not the case, we would not have been able to learn our mother tongue. If we had refused to accept unquestioningly (without demanding proof) every command, beck, and call of our teachers, we would have been ignorant of even the alphabet of the languages we speak, let alone the study and writing of books in those languages. Our whole life – every facet of it: eating, drinking, wearing garments, walking, earning, and so forth – is connected with this very concept of taqlid. Our intellectual and cultural development is the result of taqlid of our parents, teachers, and others.
If the technical terminology of every branch of knowledge were not acquired on the basis of taqlid (i.e. without questioning the authority of that terminology), then proficiency in such knowledge could not have been attained. If the meanings of words and their idiomatic usages were not acquired through taqlid of linguists and the norms of our linguistic discourses, we would not become conversant in any language.
Sometimes man learns the harmful effect of poison as well as the remedial effects of medicines by virtue of taqlid. In war, if an army does not accept unquestioningly every order of its commander, victory may not be attained. If the various agencies of government do not obey the laws promulgated by the law makers, then law and order cannot be maintained in the land. In short, the progress and perfection of our physical, spiritual, intellectual, academic, moral and social life is firmly rooted in taqlid – to accept and obey professional authority.
The Necessity of Taqlid
There are two types of wujub [the compulsory nature of something] in jurisprudence: wujub bi ‘l-dhat and wujub bi ‘l-ghayr.
wujub bi ‘l-dhat means “compulsory in itself” – in other words, acts ordered or prohibited by Islamic law due to something in their intrinsic nature, like the command of prayer and the prohibition of polytheism.
wujub bi ‘l-ghayr means “compulsory due to an external factor” – in other words, acts that are not compulsory or prohibited in themselves, but constitute the basis for other actions that are specifically commanded or prohibited in the Qur’an and hadiths; or let us say that such acts which take on the obligatory nature of the actions that they form the basis of.
An example of this is the writing of the Holy Qur’an and hadiths. The Messenger of Allah (SallAllahu Alaihi Wasallam) is reported by Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) as saying, “We are a nation that neither writes nor calculates” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Muslim). The hadith, by way of implication (since it was said concerning the observation of the moon), negates the transcribing of the Qur’an and hadiths. However, it has been found necessary to record the Qur’an and hadith in writing to preserve their authenticity and make both more widely available. Therefore, such writing is not considered to be in conflict with the above hadith, and no one questions the necessity of such writing nor does anybody demand proof for it.
The preservation of the Qur’an and hadith is an act categorically commanded (thus wujub bi ‘l-dhat) and emphasized by Shari’a. Experience tells us that such preservation is not normally possible without recording the Qur’an and hadith in writing. It is for this reason that the writing of the Qur’an and hadith has also been decreed as wajib. Consensus of the entire Umma [Muslim Community] regarding the recording of the Qur’an and hadith in writing has been reported through the ages in an unbroken chain of transmissions. The need for this recording is thus classified as wujub bi ‘l-ghayr. In exactly the same way, taqlid or “following someone in matters of Islamic law,” is also decreed as essential or wajib, falling within the classification of wujub bi ‘l-ghayr. We find ample evidence for the necessity of taqlid in light of the above explanation.
Taqlid is especially important in this age in which the vast majority of Muslims are ignorant of basic Islamic sciences. Thus, without taqlid, following the clear and definite commandments of the Shari’a would be virtually impossible. For those who have not acquired even a basic knowledge of the sources of Shari’a and methods of deriving rulings [ijtihad] from the sacred sects, taqlid becomes both essential and compulsory.”
Evidence from Hadiths
Aswad ibn Yazid narrates:
Mu’adh came to us in Yemen as a teacher (or as a leader). We asked him concerning a person who had died leaving [as his heirs] a daughter and a sister. He decreed half the estate for the daughter and half for the sister
(Sahih al-Bukhari 2:297).
This was during the lifetime of the Messenger (SallAllahu Alaihi Wasallam). From this hadith a number of points are established:
(1) Taqlid was in practice during the time of the Messenger of Allah (SallAllahu Alaihi Wasallam). The questioner (in the hadith) did not demand proof or a basis for the decree. He accepted the ruling, relying on the integrity, piety, and righteousness of Mu’adh (May Allah be pleased with him). This is a precise example of taqlid in practice.
(2) The Messenger (SallAllahu Alaihi Wasallam) did not criticize the people of his time who followed Mu’adh (May Allah be pleased with him), nor did the Messenger (SallAllahu Alaihi Wasallam) have any objection on the issue.
(3) This hadith furnishes proof for the validity of taqlid shakhsi or “following one particular person in the affairs of Islamic law.” The Messenger of Allah (SallAllahu Alaihi Wasallam) had appointed Mu’adh (May Allah be pleased with him) to provide religious instruction to the people of Yemen. It is evident that the Messenger of Allah (SallAllahu Alaihi Wasallam) granted the people of Yemen the right and permission to refer to Mu’adh (May Allah be pleased with him) in all affairs of the Din [religion]. The permissibility and validity of taqlid is therefore evident from this, especially because of its prevalence in the glorious time of the Messenger (SallAllahu Alaihi Wasallam).
Evils of Discarding Taqlid
It is well known that many, if not the vast majority of people in this age, do no model their lives after the example of Allah’s Messenger (SallAllahu Alaihi Wasallam). As a result they are governed by selfishness, corrupt motives, lust, insincerity, mischief, strife, anarchy, and opposition to the consensus of the rightly-guided scholars. This inevitably leads to the subjection of the Din to human desires. The hadiths of fitan [strife, trials, and tribulations] have forewarned us of the rise of these corrupt traits in man, and the scholars of this Din have been aware of this problem.
The absence of taqlid shakhsi will cause great harm and corruption in the Din. One of the destructive evils which will raise its ugly head in the absence of taqlid shakhsi is the appearance of self-appointed mujtahids. Some people will consider themselves to be capable of inferring religious rulings, and embark on the process of juristic [shar’i] analogical reasoning [qiyas]. They will consider themselves to be of equal or greater rank than the illustrious mujtahids of the early ages of Islam.
For example, the previous mujtahids have reliably stated that many laws are based on particular causes [mu’allal] and not definite causes. Citing this, some modernists might claim that even the command of wudu’ for prayer is based on a particular cause [mu’allal]. According to them, this command could have been for the early Arabs, whose occupation of tending animals exposed them constantly to impurities, which could have called for ritual purification in the form of wudu’. They might claim, on this basis, that since people of the present time live in conditions of greater hygiene, wudu’ is no longer necessary for prayer. [From the opening chapter of Taqlid and Ijtihad by Shaykh Masihullah Jalalabadi]
2. TAQLID: FOLLOWING AN IMAM IN THE MATTERS OF SHARI’A
Some people say that taqlid [following the school of an Imam] is unlawful in Shari’a. The insist that a true Muslim should only follow the Holy Qur’an and Sunna, and they say it is equivalent to shirk [polytheism] to follow an Imam in the matters of Shari’a. They also claim that the Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki and Hanbali schools were formed some two hundred years after the Messenger’s (SallAllahu Alaihi Wasallam) death, and therefore, these schools are a reprehensible innovation [bid’a]. Some also stress that a Muslim should seek guidance directly from the Qur’an and Sunna and no intervention of an Imam is needed to practice upon the Shari’a. Please explain how for this view is correct.
Answer of Mufti Taqi ‘Uthmani
This view is based on certain misunderstandings arising from unnecessary treatment of the complicated issued involved. The full clarification of this mistaken view requires a detailed article. However, I will try to explain the basic points as briefly as possible.
It is true that obedience, in its true sense, belongs to Allah alone. We do not obey anyone other than Him. This is the logical requirement of the doctrine of tawhid [belief in the oneness of Allah]. The obedience of the Messenger of Allah (SallAllahu Alaihi Wasallam) has been ordered upon us, only because he is the Messenger of Allah who conveyed to us the divine commandments, otherwise he has no divine status deserving our obedience. By obeying and acting according to the teachings of the Messenger (SallAllahu Alaihi Wasallam), we obtain the pleasure of Allah.
However, the crux of the matter is that the interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunna is not a simple one. It requires an intensive and extensive study of the sacred sources of Shari’a, which cannot be undertaken by a person unqualified in the field. If every Muslim was obligated to consult the Holy Qur’an and Sunna on each and every problem arising before him, it would burden him with a responsibility that would be almost impossible to fulfill. This is because the derivation of the rules of Shari’a from the Qur’an and Sunna requires a thorough knowledge of the Arabic language and all the relevant sciences – a combination which every person is not known have. The only solution to this problem is that a few people should equip themselves with the required knowledge of Shari’a and others should ask them about the rulings in their day-to-day affairs. This is exactly what Allah has ordained for the Muslims in the following words:
“Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they [who are left behind] may get instructions in religion, and that they may warn their people when they return to them, so that they may beware [of evil]” (al-Qur’an 9:122)
This verse of the Holy Qur’an indicates in clear terms that a group of Muslims should devote themselves to acquiring the knowledge of Shari’a and all others should consult them for their rulings. Now, if a person asks a reliable scholar [‘alim] about the juridical [shar’i] ruling in a specific matter and acts upon his advice, can any reasonable person accuse him of committing shirk on the ground that he has followed the advice of a human being instead of the Qur’an and Sunna? Certainly not.
The reason is obvious, because he has not abandoned obedience to Allah and His Messenger (SallAllahu Alaihi Wasallam). Rather, he is in search of a way to obey them. However, being unaware of the shar’i commands, he has consulted a scholar in order to know what he is required to do by Allah. He has not taken that scholar as the subject of his obedience, but rather as an interpreter of the divine commands. Nobody can accuse him of committing shirk.
This is taqlid in essence: a person who is not able to understand the Holy Qur’an and Sunna, and so consults a Muslim jurist, often termed an Imam, and acts according to his interpretation of the Shari’a. The person never considers the Imam worthy of obedience, but seeks his guidance in order to know the requirements of Shari’a due to now having direct access to the Holy Qur’an and Sunna or not having adequate knowledge for deriving the rules of Shari’a from these sources. This behavior is called taqlid of that jurist or Imam. Thus, how can it be said that taqlid is equivalent to shirk?
The qualified Muslim jurists or Imams, who have devoted their lives to ijtihad, have collected the rules of Shari’a according to their respective interpretations of its sources in an almost codified form. This collection of the rules of Shari’a according to the interpretation of a particular jurist is called the madhhab or “school” of that jurist.
Thus, the school of an Imam is not something parallel to the Shari’a or something alien to it. In fact, it is a particular interpretation of the Shari’a and a collection of the major shar’i rules derived from the Holy Qur’an and Sunna by a reliable jurist, and arranged subject-wise for the convenience of the followers of the Shari’a. So, the one who follows a particular school actually follows the Holy Qur’an and Sunna according to the interpretation of a particular reliable jurist, whom he or she believes to be the most trustworthy and most well-versed in the matters of Shari’a.
As for the differences in the schools, they have emerged through the different possible interpretations of the rules mentioned in or derived from the Holy Qur’an and Sunna. In order to understand this point properly, it will be relevant to know that the rules mentioned in the Holy Qur’an and Sunna are of two different types.
The first type of rules are those which are stated in these sacred sources in such clear words that they allow only one interpretation. No other interpretation is possible thereof, such as the obligation of prayer, zakat, fasting and pilgrimage; and the prohibition of pork and adultery. With regard to this set of rules, no difference of opinion has ever taken place. All the schools of jurists are unanimous in their interpretation; hence there is no room for ijtihad or taqlid in these matters. Also, since everyone can easily understand them from the Holy Qur’an and Sunna, there is no need for consulting an Imam or jurist.
On the other hand, there are some rules of Shari’a derived from the Holy Qur’an and Sunna where any of the following situations may arise:
(1) The wording used in the sacred sources may allow more than one interpretation. For example, while mentioning the duration of the waiting period [‘idda] for a divorced woman, the Holy Qur’an has used the following expression:
“And divorced women shall wait [as regards their marriage] for three periods of quru’” (2:228).
The word quru’ used in the above verse has two meanings. It stands both for the “period of menstruation” and the “period of cleanliness” [i.e. tuhr]. Both meanings are possible in the verse and each of them has different legal consequences.
The question that requires jurisprudential efforts here is: “Which of the two meanings is intended here?” While answering the question, the juridical opinions may naturally differ, as is the case. Imam Shafi’i interprets the word quru’ as the “period of cleanliness,” while Imam Abu Hanifa interprets it as the “period of menstruation.” Both of them have a number of reasons in support of their respective views, and neither can be completely rejected. This example highlights one of the causes for differences of opinion among different schools.
(2) Sometimes disparity appears between two hadiths of Allah’s Messenger (SallAllahu Alaihi Wasallam), and a jurist has to reconcile them or prefer one of them over the other. In this case also, the view points of the jurists may differ from one another. For example, there are two sets of traditions found in the books of hadiths narrating different behaviors of the Messenger (SallAllahu Alaihi Wasallam) while bowing [ruku’] in prayer. The first set of hadiths mentions that he used to raise his hands before bowing, while the other hadiths mention that he did not raise his hands except at the beginning of prayer. The jurists, while accepting that both ways are correct, have expressed different views regarding the question: “Which of the two ways is more preferable?” Thus, situations like these also cause differences of opinion between various schools.
(3) There are many issues which are not specifically addressed in the Holy Qur’an and Sunna. The solution to these issues is sought either through analogy of through examples, found in the sacred sources, that have an indirect bearing on the subject. Here again, the jurists may have different approaches to extracting the required solution from the Holy Qur’an and Sunna.
Such are the basic causes of differences of opinion between the schools. These differences are in no way a defect in Shari’a, rather they are a source of flexibility composing a vast field of academic research governed by the principles of Shari’a and settled by means of the Holy Qur’an and Sunna for all time to come.
A Muslim jurist who has all the necessary qualifications for ijtihad is supposed to attempt his utmost to extract the actual meaning of the Qur’an and Sunna. If he does this to the best of his ability and with sincerity, he will be rewarded for accomplishing his duty, and nobody can accuse him of disregarding the Shari’a, even though his view may seem to be weaker when compared to others. This is a natural and logical circumstance, certain to be found in every legal system.
The established laws in every legal framework do not cover every minute detail and possible situation. Also, these laws are often open to more than one interpretation, and different courts of law, while attempting to understand them, often disagree about their meanings. One court may interpret the law in a particular way while another court may understand it in quite a different sense. Thus, nobody can say that the jurists have disrespected the laws of Islam by arriving at different opinions. And since every court of law intends to apply the established law to the best of its ability, its duty towards the Lawmaker (Allah) will be discharged, and its jurists will be rewarded for it.
For example, if one of the courts mentioned earlier were a high court, all the lower courts and the people living under its authority would be bound to follow judgments made by the high court, even though their personal opinion might not conform to the opinion of the high court. In such a case, if the lower courts follow the decision of the high court, nobody can say that they are not following the law or that they take the high court to be a legislator of the law. This is because, in actual fact, the lower courts are following the decision of the high court as a trustworthy interpreter of the law, and not as a legislator.
In exactly the same way, the school of a Muslim jurist provides nothing more than a reliable interpretation of the Shari’a. Another qualified jurist may disagree regarding the interpretation of that jurist, but neither can he be accused of disregarding the laws of Shari’a, nor can anyone accuse the followers of a particular school of following something other than the Shari’a or of committing shirk. The reason for this is that these Muslims are following the school as a trustworthy interpretation of Shari’a.
The next question which may arise here is: “What should a person do with regard to these different schools, and which one of them should he follow?” The answer to this question is very simple. All of these schools have been sincere in their efforts to infer the true meaning of the Shari’a; therefore they are all equally valid. A person should follow the school of any of the recognized Imams whom he believes to be the most knowledgeable and most pious.
Although the Muslim jurists who have undertaken the exercise of ijtihad have been many in number, the schools of the four Imams – Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi’i and Imam Ahmad – are found to be more comprehensive, well-arranged, and well-preserved up to the present day. The Muslim Umma as a whole has taken these four Imams as having the most reliable interpretations of Shari’a.
The four schools are known as the Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools. The rest of the schools [madhhabs] are either not comprehensive enough, in the sense that they do not contain all aspects of Shari’a, or have not been preserved in a reliable form. For this reason, the majority of the Muslim Umma belongs to one of these four schools. If a person adopts a school of Islamic law as an interpretation of the Shari’a, his obligation to follow the Shari’a stands fulfilled.
This is the true picture of the term taqlid with reference to the jurisprudential schools. I hope this explanation will be sufficient to show that taqlid has nothing to do with shirk or “ascribing partners to Allah,” but is in fact a simple and easy way of following the Shari’a.
3. FOLLOWING ONE PARTICULAR IMAM IN EVERY JURISTIC ISSUE
It is generally believed by Sunni Muslims that each one of the four schools (Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki and Hanbali) – all being possible interpretations of the Shari’a – are correct and none of them can be held as something in contradiction with the Shari’a. But at the same time, we can see that the follower of the Hanafi school do not depart from the Hanafi view and do not adopt the Shafi’i or Maliki view in juristic matters. Rather, they deem it impermissible to follow the view of another jurist in any particular issue. How can this approach be reconciled with the belief that all the four schools are considered correct? It would seem that if they are all correct then there should be no harm in the Hanfis following Shafi’i, Maliki, or Hanbali views in some matters.
Answer of Mufti Taqi ‘Uthmani
It is true that all four schools are on the truth, and following any one of them is permissible in order to follow the Shari’a. However, a nonprofessional who lacks the ability to compare between the arguments of each school cannot pick and mix between different views to satisfy his personal desires. The reason for this approach is twofold.
Allah has emphatically ordered in a number of verses of the Holy Qur’an to follow the guidance of the Shari’a, and has made it strictly prohibited for one to follow one’s desires vis-à-vis the rules of the Shari’a. The Muslim jurists, when interpreting the sources of the Shari’a, attempt never to satisfy their personal desires. They attempt to make their best effort to discover the spirit of Shari’a, and they base their opinions on the force of evidence and not merely on the search for convenience. They do not choose an interpretation on the basis of its suitability to their personal fancies; they choose it only on the basis of the strength of the evidence before them.
Now, if someone who has not studied Islamic law is allowed to choose any juristic view without consulting the arguments pertaining to those views, he will be at liberty to select only those views which seem to be more fulfilling to his personal requirements. This attitude will lead him to follow his own desires and not the guidance – a practice totally condemned in the Holy Qur’an.
For example, Imam Abu Hanifa is of the opinion that bleeding from any part of the body breaks the wudu’; while Imam Shafi’i believes that bleeding does not break the wudu’. On the other hand, Imam Shafi’i says that if a man touches a woman, his wudu’ stands broken and he is obligated to make fresh wudu’ before offering prayer, while Imam Abu Hanifa insists that merely touching a woman does not break the wudu’.
How can the practice of “pick-and-mix” be allowed? A layman may well choose the Hanafi opinion in the matter of touching a woman and the Shafi’i view in the matter of bleeding. Consequently, he will deem his wudu’ unbroken even when experiencing both situations together (i.e. he has bled and happened to touch a woman) even though his wudu’ stands broken now according to both Hanafi and Shafi’i opinions.
Similarly, according to the Shafi’i view, a traveler can combine the two prayers of Zuhr and ‘Asr. However, at the same time, if a traveler makes up his mind to stay in a town for four days, he is no longer regarded a traveler in the Shafi’i view. Hence, he cannot avail himself of the concession of shortening the prayers [qasr] nor of combining two prayers. On the other hand, the period of travel, according to the Hanafi view, is fourteen days, and a person can continue to shorten his prayers as long as he does not resolve to stay in a town for fourteen days or more.
A traveler who has entered a city to stay there for five days, cannot combine two prayers, according to both Imam Shafi’i and Imam Abu Hanifa. This is because, by staying for five days, he cannot use the two concessions of qasr and of combining two prayers according to Imam Shafi’i, and because combining two prayers is not allowed according to Imam Abu Hanifa. Nevertheless, the approach of “pick and mix” still leads some people to adopt the Shafi’i view in the matter of combining prayers and the Hanafi view in the matter of the period of journey.
It is evident from these examples that the selection of different views in different cases is not based on the force of arguments leading to them, but on the facility provided by each. Obviously this practice is tantamount to following one’s desires, which is totally prohibited by the Holy Qur’an. If such an attitude is permitted, it will render the Shari’a a plaything in the hands of the ignorant, and no rule of Shari’a will remain immune to distortion. This is why the practice of “pick-and-mix” has been condemned by all the renowned scholars of Shari’a. Imam Ibn Taymiya, the famous hadith scholar and jurist, says in his Fatawa:
Some people follow at one time an Imam who holds marriage invalid, and at another time they follow an Imam who holds it valid. They do so only to serve their individual purpose and satisfy their desires. Such a practice is impermissible according to the consensus of all the Imams (Fatawa Ibn Taymiya 2:285–286).
This was the basic cause for the policy adopted by the later jurists, who made it necessary for the common people to adopt a particular school it its totality. If one prefers the madhhab of Imam Abu Hanifa, then one should adopt it in all matters and with all its details. However, if one prefers another madhhab one should adopt that one in full. One should pick and mix between the different views of the schools for one’s own benefit.
The benefit of the validity of the madhhabs, according to the jurists, is that a person can elect to follow any one of them. But one a person has adopted a particular madhhab, then he should not follow any other madhhab in any matter, whether it be to seek convenience or to satisfy his personal choices, both of which are based on his desires and not on the force of argument. Thus, the policy of “allegiance to a particular school” was a preventive measure adopted by the jurists to preclude anarchy in the matter of the Shari’a.
However, this policy is meant for those who cannot carry out ijtihad themselves or cannot evaluate the arguments advanced by all the madhhabs in support of their views. For such people, the best approach is to follow one particular school as a credible interpretation of the Shari’a.
Nevertheless, those equipped with the necessary qualifications of ijtihad need not follow a particular school [madhhab]. They can derive the rules of Shari’a directly from the original sources. Similarly, those who are not fully qualified for the exercise of deriving rulings [ijtihad], but are so well-versed in the Islamic disciplines that they can evaluate the different juristic views on purely academic grounds (i.e. without being motivated by their personal desires), are not forbidden from preferring one school over the other in a particular matter. There are many Hanafi jurists who, despite their allegiance to Imam Abu Hanifa, have adopted the view of some other jurist in some juristic issues. Nevertheless, they are considered Hanafis.
This partial departure from the view of Imam Abu Hanifa could be based on either of the following grounds: sometimes jurists, after an honest and comprehensive study of the relevant material, come to the conclusion that the view of another Imam is stronger. Jurists may also find that the view of Imam Abu Hanifa, although based on analogy, does not conform to an authentic hadith, which is usually due to its not being conveyed to the Imam; otherwise he most probably would have adopted a view in conformance with that hadith also.
Another case in which jurists have departed from the view of their Imam is when they have felt it a necessity for the collective good of Umma. These jurists would follow another Imam not in pursuance of their personal desires, but to meet the collective needs of the Umma and in view of the changed circumstances prevailing in their time.
These examples are sufficient to show that the followers of a particular school do not take their school as a substitute for the Shari’a or as its sole version to the exclusion of every other madhhab. Followers of a madhhab do not give any madhhab a higher place than it actually deserves within the framework of Shari’a.
Before parting with this question, I would like to clarify another point which is extremely important in this context. Some people who have no systematic knowledge of Islamic disciplines often become deluded by their superficial knowledge based on self-study (in many cases, it being only through the translation of the Holy Qur’an and hadiths). Following this kind of cursory study, they assume themselves to be masters of Islamic learning and begin criticizing the former Muslim jurists. This attitude is based on ignorance and has no justification.
The extraction of juridical rules from the Holy Qur’an and Sunna is a very meticulous process that cannot be carried out on the basis of sketchy study. While studying a particular juristic subject, one has to collect all the relevant material from the Qur’an and hadiths found in the various chapters and books and undertake a combined study of the scattered material. One must examine the veracity of the relevant hadiths in light of the well-established principles of the science of hadith [usul al-hadith]. One must study the historical background of the relevant verses and traditions. In short, one has to resolve a number of complicated issues involved. This whole exercise requires very intensive and extensive knowledge which is seldom found in contemporary scholars who have specialized themselves in the subject, let alone the common people who have no direct access to the original sources of Shari’a.
The conclusion of the above discussion is that since all the four schools are based on solid grounds, it is permissible for a competent scholar to adopt another school’s juristic view, if he has the required knowledge and ability to understand the merits of each madhhab on the basis of adequate academic research, without being indulged in pursuing his personal desires. The people who do not fulfill these conditions should not dare to do so, because it could lead to anarchy in the matter of Shari’a.
[Excerpted from Fiqh al-Imam – Key Proofs in Hanafi Fiqh by Abdur-Rahman Ibn Yusuf]
Fiqh al–Imam Available at White Thread Press.