Can I Follow an Imam in Prayer Who Follows a Different School?

Shafi'i Fiqh
Maliki Fiqh
Hanbali Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick

Question

Will my Witr prayer in Ramadan after Tarawih and the eclipse prayer be valid in a congregation behind a Hanafi Imam who prays these prayers differently from the Shafi‘is?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. Thank you for your question.

It is valid to pray behind such an Imam, and Allah knows best.

Can a Shafi‘i Follow an Imam of a Different School?

It is valid for a Shafi‘i to follow the leadership of an imam who follows a different school of jurisprudence if the follower is not certain that the Imam has omitted an obligatory element of the prayer (according to the Imam’s School). [Shirbini, Mughni Al-Muhtaj]

Usually, the dominant view in the Shafi‘i School is that the prayer’s validity is based on the follower’s belief. The contemporary Shafi‘i muftis, Habib Zayn ibn Sumayt, Mufti Taha Karaan (may Allah have mercy on them), and Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller have preferred the subdominant (khilaf al-asahh) view above.

Given the widespread division and ignorance in the world, their preferred view is closer to the spirit of the Law, which strives for Muslim unity, not division. In addition, the Malikis and Hanbalis share the same view as the one provided, and Allah knows best.

I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.

[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan. 

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.