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Confused: Why Do We Have To Follow One Madhab?

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I read through the questions and answers regarding the following of the four imams. I still feel confused about this because you gave examples of imam shafi'i's and imam Abu hanifa's teaching about bleeding and wudu. Why is it that we have to follow a single imam? Why can’t we look for the most authentic source and follow that because prophet Muhammad SAWS taught us one way not many ways on a certain aspect. Yes I believe that the four imams were great people and they did follow Qur'an and Sunnah. But why are there different teachings? It should be more or less the same teachings. Imam bukhari quoted from many authentic sources, and many seem to be close to shafi'i teachings.


You said mixing and matching is condemned. But all the imams said themselves "if you find anything of that goes against the Quran and Sunnah, then through mine over the wall and follow that". All for imams are correct but shafi'i teaching says to raise hand to level of the shoulder when going ruku and sajda, saying Ameen loudly after surah fatihah, standing ankle to ankle and shoulder to shoulder in salaah. where imam Abu hanifah just says shoulder to shoulder. Also these are to be authentic sources also from imam bukhari's research. So how can all imams be correct if there is different ways of prayer when prophet muhammad SAWS taught us one way? etc etc..... It doesn’t make sense. How does contradiction come into this if there is one teaching and one way? There woud be no contradiction.


Please sheikh if you can through some light into this for me and many that are on the same boat as me. Jazakallah Khair




In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful


Assalaamu `alaykum waRahmatullahi Wabarakatuh

Another Angle of Taqleed

We would firstly like to apologize for a much belated reply. Your query consists of the following questions:

  • Why are there differences of opinion?
  • Why do we have to follow one Imam?
  • Why can’t we look for the most authentic views?
  • If a narration is authentic it is my mad’hab?
  • How does contradiction come about?

Below we shall discuss the above mentioned questions together with some other important points under separate headings.

Why are there differences of opinions?

There are many reasons which contribute to why there exist differences of opinion. The nature of the Arabic language, the pronunciation of words, diacritical marks (i’rāb), method of transmitting any narration, the criteria for accepting any narration are just some of the many reasons which leads to differences of opinions.

Before proceeding, it is important to understand that one bounty which Allah Ta’ala favoured on this ummah is that differences of opinion are not only allowed but considered as a mercy.

If differences of opinion were something bad we would not have found any differences in the golden era of the honourable sahabah رضوان الله تعالى عليهم اجمعينwho were in the company of Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلم. In fact, when we study the noble Quran we find that many places Allah Ta’ala left open for differences. If He wished he could have cleared things right from the inception.

Regarding the iddah (waiting period) of a divorcee Allah Ta’ala mentions:

{ والمطلقات يتربصن بأنفسهن ثلاثة قروء (228)}

A divorcee should keep herself for three quroo (2:228)

What is the meaning of quroo? Does it mean impure period (menstruation) or pure period (between the menses)? Sahabah رضوان الله تعالى عليهم اجمعينhad differences amongst themselves. Great personalities the likes of Sayyiduna Ibn Mas’ood رضي الله تعالى عنهand others opine that it is haidh, whereas other great personalities the like of Sayyidatuna Aisha رضي الله تعالى عنهاopine that it refers to the clean period.

Had differences of opinion been disliked in the shariah, Allah Ta’ala would have simply changed the word and make the meaning clear.

Differences of Opinion Arising from the Understanding of the Noble Qurān:

  • Difference in the tafseer (interpretation) of a word.

Above we have discussed an example. There is a difference in the tafseer of the word quroo and therefore difference in the ruling.

  • Could shadh (isolated) methods of recitation be used in establishing a ruling?

There are various modes and methods in which the Noble Qurān could be recited. Some methods are well established whilst others are not. Those methods which are not so well established are known as shadh or isolated modes of recitation.

Some scholars accept shadh recitations as sufficient enough proof to establish a ruling whilst others stand to differ. Ulamā who accept the usage of shadh methods of recitation as a legitimate means of establishing any ruling would conclude differently from those who do not accept it. An example of this is the ruling regarding keeping fast of kaffārah of breaking an oath; should it be continuous or not. The normal famous Qirā’ah reads as:

لا يؤاخذكم الله باللغو في أيمانكم ولكن يؤاخذكم بما عقدتم الأيمان فكفارته إطعام عشرة مساكين من أوسط ما تطعمون أهليكم أو كسوتهم أو تحرير رقبة فمن لم يجد فصيام ثلاثة أيام ذلك كفارة أيمانكم إذا حلفتم واحفظوا أيمانكم كذلك يبين الله لكم آياته لعلكم تشكرون (89)

Allah does not hold you accountable for your laghw (ineffectual) oaths, but He does hold you accountable for the oath with which you have bound yourself. Its expiation is to feed ten poor persons at an average of what you feed your family with, or to clothe them, or to free a slave. However, if someone cannot afford a slave, he has to fast for three days. That is expiation for the oaths that you have sworn. Take care of your oaths. That is how Allah makes His signs clear to you, so that you may be grateful. [5:89]

However, the Qirā’ah of Sayyiduna Ubayy and Ibn Mas’ood رضي الله تعالى عنهماreads as:

فصيام ثلاثة أيام متتابعات

He has to fast for three consecutive days

Those scholars who accept this recitation will conclude that the fast needs to be consecutive whereas those who do not accept this recitation will not conclude so.

Differences of Opinion Arising from the Noble Ahādith:

Our illustrious scholars have laid down some principles and conditions for accepting a narration. Generally there are five conditions for any narration to be considered saheeh. However, we find that there are differences of opinion in establishing these five conditions. Below are two of these conditions with some examples:

  • Continuous chain of narrators.

Some scholars like Imām Bukhāri رحمه الله تعالىand others say that in establishing that the chain is continuous it should be proven that every narrator met with the person he is narrating from. To the contrary, other scholars like Imām Muslim رحمه الله تعالى are of the opinion that the mere possibility of the narrator and the one above him meeting is enough in establishing the continuity of the chain[1].

Based on this difference, if there is any narration where it cannot be proven that two narrators met, then according to those scholars who are of the same opinion as Imām Bukhāri رحمه الله تعالى,such a narration cannot be used to establish any ruling. However, those who hold the same opinion as Imām Muslim رحمه الله تعالىwould consider such a narration to be acceptable.

  • The narrators should all be trustworthy.

Under this condition the following different points of contention exists:

Is it sufficient that the narrator be a Muslim and no criticism has been made against him? Is it sufficient that he appears to be trustworthy or does it have to be confirmed that he is trustworthy?

Is it sufficient for one Imām to say he is trustworthy or is it necessary for two Imāms to testify? Which criticisms are acceptable and which are not?

Many narrators have been criticized by some and confirmed as trustworthy by others. Whose opinion do you follow?

One narrator might have tens of ahadith. Those who accept him will accept all his narrations as well and those who do not accept him will not accept his narrations. Thus, those who accept these narrations will conclude differently from those who do not accept it, thereby ending with a difference in opinion.

  • Sometimes there are contradictory narrations on a topic and both narrations are authentic. For example, what is the preferred time to perform Fajr salāh; should it be performed whilst it is still dark or should it be delayed a little?

  • Vast majority of scholars accept weak narrations in the absence of any strong narration. In fact they give preference to a weak narration over analogy which is an accepted source of Islāmic Jurisprudence. Those scholars whose accept weak narrations in establishing a ruling will differ with those who do not accept weak narrations as strong enough proof.

  • Another reason why we have differences of opinions is that sometimes there are different wordings of a narration. Different scholars chose different wordings which led to difference in the outcome. It is for this reason that scholars, including the muhaddithoon, prefer those narrations which were narrated by fuqahā(jurists) as they understand the implications of different wordings, and thus are more precautious when narrating any narration. An example of this reason is as follows:

A narration appears in the Sunan of Imām Abu Dāwood رحمه الله تعالىregarding prayer upon the deceased. The wordings of different narrations differ resulting in a difference in the juristic ruling derived there from.

عن ابن أبى ذئب حدثنى صالح مولى التوأمة عن أبى هريرة قال قال رسول الله -صلى الله عليه وسلم- « من صلى على جنازة فى المسجد فلا شىء عليه » سنن أبى داود

Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah رضي الله تعالى عنهnarrates that Rasulullah صلى الله عليه وسلمsaid: “Whoever prays over a deceased in the masjid, then there is nothing against him”.

Other narrations have the wordings: “Then there is nothing for him”.

Those scholars who take the wordings of “then there is nothing against him” permit salāh on the deceased in the masjid, and to the contrary those who take the wording “then there is nothing for him” disapprove of salāh on the deceased in the masjid.

In Arabic the difference is between لَهand عَلَيْه. This is one book, one narration, from one Sahābi with the difference of just two letters yet the whole ruling changes. The cause of this is not that anybody changed any narration on their own accord, but this is how the hadith was narrated.

From this we can see how intricate the Arabic language is. This leads us to another reason of why we have differences of opinions.

  • The manner of pronouncing or reading the i’rab (diacritical mark) of any word also leads to differences of opinions.

If a person slaughters an animal and a foetus comes out from the womb of the mother, does the foetus need to be slaughtered or shall the slaughtering of the mother suffice?

ذكاة الجنين ذكاةَ ُامه (مسلم)

The slaughtering of the foetus is the slaughtering of the mother.

The word ذكاةwhen read with a dhammah gives the meaning that the foetus does not have to be slaughtered separately, whereas when read with a fathah means that it needs to be slaughtered.

Will it be correct for a person to open English translations of Qurān and hadith and start deriving laws???

Together with the above there are many other reasons of differences of opinion. For more details refer to the following books:

  • اثر الحديث الشريف في اختلاف الأئمة الفقهاء رضي الله عنهم الشيخ محمد عوامه

Which translates as: the effect hadith had in causing the Jurist to differ.

  • اثر الاختلاف في القواعد الاصولية في اختلاف الفقهاء الدكتور مصطفى الخن

Which translates as: the effect of principles in causing the Jurist to differ.

  • اثر اللغة في اختلاف المجتهدين عبد الوهاب عبد السلام

Which translates as: the effect of linguistics in the differing of Jurist.

Why one of four?

There were many mujtahids in the past. Why do I have to restrict myself to following one of the four madhāhib? Why can’t I follow any other madhhab?

One of the conditions in following a madhhab is that it should continue to develop after the founder of the madhhab. For example, in the Hanafi madhhab the students of Imām Abu Hanifa Imām, Imām Abu Yusuf and Imām Muhammad رحمهم الله تعالىcontinued to build on the foundation laid by Imām Abu Hanifa رحمه الله تعالى. Ulama and scholars who came later on continued to review, codify, explain and expand on the Hanafi madhhab. It is in this manner that we have a fully codified and systemic madhhab. This has been the case with the other three madhāhib also. In contrast to other schools of thought which were not codified, researched and recorded as the above mentioned madhāhib. The views of other mujtahids were passed on as knowledge (i.e. their views were quoted when discussing a mas’alah but it was not accepted as a madhhab to be followed). It is for this reason that some of their views are found scattered in different books.

From the above explanation we also understand that the four madhāhib are not the works of a single individual. However, it is the conglomeration of the united efforts of the ulama throughout the ages.

Why one madhhab?

If all four madhāhab are correct why do I have to restrict myself to only one madhhab?

If a person does not confine himself to one madhhab he will ultimately fall prey to the evil of his nafs. He will always be looking for what suits his whims and desires. This will cause a lot of harm to his religion. If someone decides to pick and choose the most prudent view he will be putting himself in difficulty. Therefore there is security and ease in confining oneself to one madhhab.

Following one scholar is an established practice from the time of the honourable Sahaba and Tabi’oon رضوان الله تعالى عليهم اجمعين. Imām Bukhari رحمه الله تعالىnarrates on the authority of Ikrimah رحمه الله تعالى:

حدثنا أبو النعمان حدثنا حماد عن أيوب عن عكرمة : أن أهل المدينة سألوا ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما عن امرأة طافت ثم حاضت قال لهم تنفر قالوا لا نأخذ بقولك وندع قول زيد قال إذا قدمتم المدينة فسلوا فقدموا المدينة فسألوا فكان فيمن سألوا أم سليم فذكرت حديث صفية رواه خالد وقتادة عن عكرمة – صحيح البخاري 1758 دار الفكر


The people of Madina asked Ibn Abbās the ruling of a woman who makes (her first tawāf) of the Ka’ba and thereafter experiences her menses (before she can make her final tawaf). Ibn Abbās told them that she may go home without completing her final tawāf. The people of Madina said, “We will not follow your verdict and abandon the verdict of Zayd.” Ibn Abbās replied, “When you reach Madina then enquire from him…” (Bukhāri 1758)

Ibn Shihāb az-Zuhri رحمه الله تعالىcommanded his student Yunus ibn Yazīd al-Ayli رحمه الهه تعالىthat obey him and make wudhu if you eat anything cooked on a fire. Yunus رحمه الله تعالىreplied I will not follow you and leave the view of Sa’eed ibnul Musayyab. Zuhri رحمه الله تعالىkept silent. (Atharul Hadīthish Sharīf 79)

Why should I follow an Imām of fiqh?

Why do I have to follow an Imām of fiqh? Why can’t I follow an Imām of hadīth? It is unanimously accepted that the Sahīh of Imām Bukhāri is the most authentic book after the book of Allah Ta’ala. Why can’t I follow Sahīh Bukhāri?

The sphere of a muhaddīth is different from that of a faqīh. A muhaddīth deals with matters relating to the chain of narrators and the words of a hadīth whereas a faqīh deals with the understanding and the practical implications of a hadīth. Furthermore, the muhaddīthoon do not have a fully codified madhhab. This is accepted fact to which even the muhaddīthoon agree. Whenever Imām Tīrmīdhī رحمه الله تعالى commented on anything relating to the sanad of any narration he always quoted the muhaddīthoon and whenever he related some relating to a fiqhi ruling he only quoted the fuqaha.

The great muhaddīth, Imām Suyfān ibn Uyaynah رحمه الله تعالىmentioned:

التسليم للفقهاء سلامة في الدين

Submitting to the fuqahā is safety in Dīn. (Atharul Hadīthish Sharīf 116)

Imām Tirmidhi رحمه الله تعالىsaid:

سنن الترمذى - (ج 3 / ص 316 رقم الحديث 990 )

وكذلك قال الفقهاء وهم أعلم بمعاني الحديث

The fuqahā are more knowledgeable of the meaning of ahādīth.

Shaykh Awwamah حفظه الله تعالىquoting Mawlana Binnorī رحمه الله تعالىexplains that it is important to understand that the muhaddithoon followed certain fiqhi rulings. Based on the rulings they followed they chose which ahādīth to add in their compilations. For example, Imām Bukhāri رحمه الله تعالىopined that a person should do raful yadayn therefore, he added those narrations which prove his viewpoint. So his ahādīth are based on his fiqh and not vice versa. (Atharul Hadīthish Sharīf 152)

Our honourable ustadh Shaykhul Hadīth Mawlāna Fadhlur Rahmān حفظه الله تعالىexplains that when our illustrious ulama mention that Bukhāri and Muslim are the most authentic books it does not mean that each and every narration is the most authentic and given preference over other ahādīth. What is meant is that on a whole these two books are the most authentic. (Who are the blind followers? 78)

It should also be understood that by default it does not mean that any narration appearing in Bukhāri is given preference. Allāmah Irāqi رحمه الله تعالىmentioned 110 reasons of any narration been given preference. It is only at number 102 that he mentioned if any narration is in Bukhāri or Muslim will it be given preference over other narration.

Allāmah Shawkāni رحمه الله تعالى listed forty-two reasons which pertaining to the sanad which could be a means of giving preference to any narration. Only at listed number 41 did he mention that a hadīth appearing in Bukhāri or Muslim could also be a reason of preference. (Atharul Hadīthish Sharīf 150)

Why I can’t follow the most authentic view?

On what basis will a person determine which view is that most authentic? If he uses his own discretion to ascertain the most authentic view, he is incapable in accomplishing this. If he has reached the stage whereby he is able to determine the most authentic view then there is nothing wrong with this. (Atharul Hadīthish Sharīf 112) However, it is important to note that for a person to reach this position he should be well qualified in all branches of knowledge starting from basic Arabic grammar right up to the intricacies of hadith and tafseer. Furthermore, in determining whether a person is fit for this lofty position or not his personal opinion will not be accepted.

If a narration is authentic it is my madh’hab

When a narration is established as saheeh then this will be my madh’hab. This has been narrated from all our illustrious fuqaha and in fact it is the maxim of every believer. However, it is important to understand what is meant by this statement and to whom it is addressed.

It is important to realize that any hadith cannot be taken on face value, even though it might be saheeh. There are many factors which could affect the status of practicing on any hadith. Our illustrious fuqaha رحمهم الله تعالى have made painstaking efforts in sifting out and clarifying for us which Ahadith should be used and which should be left out. Not every hadith is ma’mool bih (practiced upon).

Ibn Wahb رحمه الله تعالى narrates that he heard Imam Malik رحمه الله تعالى say:

“Many ahadith could be a means of misguidance.”

What did this great Imām mean by saying hadith could be a source of misguidance? He meant that not all ahadith are suitable to be practiced upon. Even though it might be authentic but it could be abrogated, there could be other Ahadith on the topic too, it could be a speciality of Nabi صلى الله عليه وسلم, or the hadith could be going against other principles of Islam (despite the fact that it is saheeh. An example of this is found in Saheeh Muslim).

Ibn Wahb رحمه الله تعالى also explains:

“Any person who has hadith but does not have an Imām in fiqh is astray.”

Great words from a great personality! This great scholar is pointing to the fact that merely having a lot of narrations is not sufficient. One has to have the understanding of how to apply them. Which narration fits where? How to join the puzzle together?

The statement “when a hadith is authentic it is my madh’hab” has been addressed to those people who have reached this level; the level of ijtihād.

Furthermore, in trying to attribute any narration as the madh’hab of an Imām, one needs to be certain that the Imām did not know of this narration. It is very possible that the Imām did not act upon this narration despite knowing about it. In order to know if the Imām knew about the narration, one needs to study all the works of the Imām and his students. This is an extremely studious task. Imām Ghazāli رحمه الله تعالىcommenting on one narration says that this hadith did not reach Abu Hanifa. Ibnul Humām رحمه الله تعالىcomments on what Imām Ghazāli رحمه الله تعالىsaid by saying that Imām Abu Hanifa رحمه الله تعالىdid know about it and he mentioned it in his musnad. Even after reading all the books of an Imām we can still not say with certainty that the Imām did not know about it. If a narration is not found in Saheeh Bukhari it does not mean he did not know about it. Similar is the case here.

Many great scholars the likes of Ibn Abil Jarood who was a student of Imām Sahfi’i , Abul Waleed an-Nisaburi and Abul Hasan al-Karaji رحمهم الله تعالى tried to follow this statement. However, those who came after them criticized them and showed where they slipped up. It was no ordinary people who tried to apply the above statement. They were great scholars of their times. Therefore, if they erred in their endeavour despite their lofty academic ranks, does it make sense for any laymen like me or you to try to implement this statement???

Above we have seen how scholars of hadith differ in their conditions in classifying a narration as saheeh. According to whose classification of saheeh will we apply the statement if a hadith is authentic?

These are just a few glimpses into the intricacies of what taqleed and ijtihād entails. This should be sufficient for a person with sober understanding to realize that:

التسليم للفقهاء سلامة في الدين

Submitting to the fuqahā is safety in Dīn.

And Allah knows best

Wassalamu Alaikum

Ml. Ishaq E. Moosa,

Student Darul Iftaa

Checked and Approved by:

Mufti Ebrahim Desai

Darul Iftaa, Madrassah In'aamiyyah

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What is the proof of taqleed shaksi i.e. that you have to follow ONLY one scholar/imam. There are verses and ahaadith from which taqleed in general can be proven, but I need some evidences that prove that you can't follow more than one person. You may say that doing so will mean following your desires, but what if one is following an opinion  of a mujtahid on a perticular issue because his ruling is easier to follow. Why is that not allowed. Doesn't it come about the Prophet (S.A.W.) that whenever he would have to choose between two different things he would choose the easier one? This is an argument that Sh. Zuhaili uses in his Al-Fiqhul Islaami page 94. He says one that page ,"And the majority of scholars say that it is not compulsory to follow one particular Imam on every mas'ala, rather it is allowed for him to follow any Mujtahid he wants... Because there is nothing wajib except what Allah makes and his messenger make wajib and Allah and his messenger did not make it wajib to follow one particular Madhab. He only made wajib to follow scholars without specifying just one. Also the people who asked about rulings did not stick to one person or madhab, instead they used to ask anyone who is available.... This opinion is the preferred one according to the scholars of Usool.




You have correctly indicated in your query that had taqlid not been constricted to only one school of thought, the general masses would conveniently practice on only the easiest rulings of each school. At times, this would lead them to abandon all four schools concurrently on one act. This would inevitably lead to contradictions and errors and will ultimately lead to introducing a new school which is based on carnal desires and opposes the practices of our pious predecessors. A famous example given is, that suppose a person performs wudu, and thereafter gets cut on his finger which causes him to bleed. According to the Hanafi ‘Ulama,, his wudu is broken, whereas according to the Shafi’ ‘Ulama his wudu is still intact. In order to avoid making wudu, he takes the Shafi’ view on this matter. This man then touches his wife with desire; according to the Shafi’ opinion his wudu is broken, whereas according to the Hanafi school of thought his wudu is still perfect. Seeing that the Hanafi view is easier on this issue, he chooses to follow that school of thought. He thereafter consumes camel meat which nullifies his wudu according to the HanbaliSchool. He finds that there is more ease in following the view of those who say that camel meat does not invalidate one’s wudu and therefore chooses to follow their view. Thereafter, he stands up to perform prayers. It is clear that according to the vast majority of Scholars his prayer will not be valid. His worship will be based more on human ego rather than Qur’an and Hadith and his entire deen will be unsystematic. It is precisely for this reason that Mawlana Ashraf ‘Ali Thanwi (may Allah Ta’ala be pleased with him) stated, “Our deen is systemized through taqlid.” (Ashraf al-Jawab, 161)


Read the full answer here : http://www.al-inaam.com/fataawa/taqleed_shakhsi.htm


And Allah knows best




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