Following a Madhab
I am a Sunni Hanafi. My question is do we have to follow the Hanafi madhab or any other madhab even though we follow the sunnah? If we do which one is preferred school of thought, as hanafi in Indian sub-continent region, shafiee from Middle East and Arab world and so on. If you can provide detailed answer on this fiqh question that will be appreciated, Jazakallahu Khairan.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.
At the outset, it is important to understand that all four Madhāhib (schools of thought) are on Haqq (the truth). If any individual adheres sincerely to any of the four Madhāhib (Hanafī, Shāfi’ī, Mālikī, and Hambalī), he will be following the right path.
After the era of Rasūlullāh Sallallāhu Alaihi Wa Sallam and the Sahābah there was a need to codify Islāmic Fiqh (Jurisprudence). There were many chosen servants of Allāh Ta’ālā who were qualified in the field of Ijtihād i.e. to extract laws directly from Qurān and Hadīth. Among them were the four Imāms, namely Imām Abū Hanīfah, Imām Shāfi’ī, Imām Mālik, and Imām Ahmad bin Hambal Rahimahumullāh. It was the will of Allāh that the Madhāhib of these four great individuals were preserved and passed down from generation to generation. Even today, there are followers of all four schools of thought present in the world.
Even though all four schools of thought are genuine, the Ulamā have ruled that it is necessary for a layman to stick to the teachings of one Madhab. The reasons for this are elaborated hereunder:
- It is prohibited to follow one’s desires
- Each Madhab is based on certain principles
Man has been created for the worship of Allāh and to submit to the will of Almighty Allāh and obey His commands. The Qurān has explicitly prohibited Insān from following his baseless desires. If a layman were to choose between the rulings of the various Madhāhib without expertise in Sharīah knowledge, his criterion to determine which ruling to follow would inevitably be his internal desires. Whichever Madhab he would find to be easier and more accommodating, he would hold on tightly to that view. And in another issue if another Madhab would be more lenient, he would jump to that particular Madhab. With such an attitude, the Dīn of Allāh would become a mere play and game that would be followed by people who are in search of fulfilling their desires rather than sacrificing their desires for Allāh Ta’ālā.
Based on this attitude of jumping from Madhab to Madhab, at times one reaches a conclusion that contradicts all scholars and all four Madhabs. This would result in a new and separate Madhab created by himself without having adequate knowledge of Dīn.
For example, in the Hanafī Madhab, bleeding nullifies Wudhū while it does not nullify Wudhū according to the Shāfi’ī Madhab. On the other hand, touching a female nullifies Wudhū according to the Shāfi’ī Madhab while it does not nullify Wudhū according to the Hanafī Madhab (even though it is prohibited if one touches a non-Mahram female).
Hence, if an individual starts to bleed and chooses to follow the Shāfi’ī view in this regards, his Wudhū is intact. If the same individual touches a female immediately after bleeding, and he chooses to follow the Hanafī stance on this issue, then according to his understanding his Wudhū is still intact. However, in such a scenario, according to both the Hanafī Madhab and Shāfi’ī Madhab the Wudhū of such a person is nullified (Hanafīs due to bleeding and Shāfi’īs due to touching a female), while his Wudhū is still intact according to his own understanding.
Another reason why it is necessary to follow one particular Madhab is because the system of each Madhab is based on certain broad principles. Various Juristic rulings flow from these broad principles. Hence, the laws and Masāil of one Madhab are inter-connected in that they flow from the same broad principles. If one was to pick and choose which Madhab to follow for different situations, then he would be causing disruption in the system of principles laid out by the Jurists.
Lastly, it is important to note at this juncture that a person who follows a Madhab is in actual fact following the teachings of Rasūlullāh Sallallāhu Alaihi Wa Sallam. He is not following the teachings of the Madhāhib so to say, rather he is following Rasūlullāh Sallallāhu Alaihi Wa Sallam the way it was understood by the Madhab. This is similar to a layman seeking religious advice from a scholar. No one would claim that the man is following the scholar himself, rather he is following the way Dīn was understood and explained by the scholar.
Note: Although all four Madhahib are on Haqq (the truth), one should follow the Madhab that one has more knowledge of or has access to acquire the knowledge of that particular Madhab.
And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best
(Mufti) Abdul Azeem bin Abdur Rahman
The Shar’a ruling herein given is based specifically on the question posed and should be read in conjunction with the question.
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 Contemporary Fatawaa, page 326-327, Idara-e-Islamiat
 اصول الإفتاء وآدابه، ص 64، مكتبة معارف القرآن