A Reader on Following Schools of Thought (Madhabs)

Why Follow a Madhab and How to Choose One

What is a Madhhab? Why is it necessary to follow one?

Why Muslims Follow Madhhabs?

Would you advise individuals to study hadith from al-Bukhari and Muslim on their own?

Understanding the Four Madhhabs

Shaykh Murabtal Haaj’s Fatwa on Following One of the Four Accepted Madhhabs

How Do I Choose A School Of Thought (madhhab) & Why?

How Can A Convert Follow A School Of Thought Correctly?

How Are Madhabs Any Different From Sects In Christianity?

Taking Rulings Directly From Imam Muhammad’s Six Books (kutub dhahir al-riwaya)

Differences of Opinion and Choosing Opinions from Other Madhabs

Differences of Opinion & Determining Sound Scholarship

Avoiding Differences of Opinion: Why & When Can I Follow Another School?

Can a Hanafi Follow the Shafi’i Opinion on Joining Prayers When Traveling?

Why Is Talfiq Impermissible When The Earlier Generations Seem To Have Done It?

The Path of Taqwa: Avoiding Differences of Opinion

Can a Hanafi Follow the Shafi’i Opinion on Joining Prayers When Traveling?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question: Scenario: Employers send one to a intense training program which is to run for three days (excluding the day one arrives and leaves), the training centre is beyond 50 miles. One finds it is difficult to pray on time and decides to follow the shafi madhab concerning joining prayers as a traveller.

a) Does one have to follow the shafi madhab in the rules of tahara, wudu and salat ?

b) Does one shorten prayers according to the shafi time limit of 3 days or does one stick to the hanafi time limit of 14 days?

Answer: Walaikum assalam,

In order for it to be permitted for one to take the dispensation of another school in any matter, one has to be reasonably sure, through sound means (such as learning from a scholar or reading from a text one is able to soundly understand) that your action is valid and proper in that other school, with all is preconditions.

When it comes to prayer, purification (tahara) is one of the preconditions for its validity. As such, both would have to be valid in another school for it to be legally valid for you to combine your prayers.

Mixing between madhhabs (talfiq) in a way that the action is not valid according to the position of any one of the maddhabs is invalid and impermissible. Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, Ibn Abidin, and others report scholarly consensus on this matter.

Pray each prayer within its time. Stay on wudu, wear footgear (khuffs), in order to be able to make wudu quickly, if necessary. If you cannot pray the sunnas, just pray the fard.

Keep in mind that this is the first thing we will be asked about on the Day of Judgment.

And Allah knows best, and He alone gives success.

Walaikum assalam,
Faraz Rabbani

Avoiding Differences of Opinion: Why & When Can I Follow Another School?

Answered by Sidi Faraz Khan

Question: Why is it recommended to follow another schools position out of scrupulousness when we believe our own school is correct? When would taking another position outside of one’s own school be permitted for this reason?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

InshaAllah you are well.

The basic idea is that while each school of thought (madhab) believes its own view on any given issue to be correct, it does acknowledge that it could be wrong and that instead another school could be correct. Hence, it is recommended to avoid difference of opinion and take into account opinions of others schools in one’s personal practice, as this would entail more piety (taqwa) and scrupulousness (wara’). However, a condition is that doing so would not entail doing something disliked (makruh) in one’s own school. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

For example, in the Hanafi school, touching a non-related member of the opposite gender does not nullify one’s ablution (wudu’), yet it does in the Shafi’i school. Hence, if a Hanafi man were to touch a non-related woman, he would not have to renew his wudu’ before praying, yet it would be recommended to do so in order to avoid the difference of opinion with the Shafi’is, and because it would not be disliked according to his own school [the Hanafi school]. [Shurunbulali, Maraqi ‘l-Falah]

An example where one would not avoid difference of opinion is with respect to the recitation of Sura Fatiha by a follower in congregational prayer. Despite it being mandatory in the Shafi’i school, a Hanafi would not do so in order to avoid difference of opinion, as it is disliked according to the Hanafi school. [Ibn al-Humam/Marghinani, Fath al-Qadir Sharh al-Hidaya]

And Allah knows best.
Faraz Khan

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Differences of Opinion & Determining Sound Scholarship

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq

Question: If we do whatever Allah asks us to do without questioning, why do different scholars have different opinions about different aspects of our religion? The permissible and impermissible is not clear and there are many different ways of interpreting something. Some scholars say watching Hollywood movies is impermissible, some say it is not. Some say music can be permissible or impermissible and different Islamic deeds have different levels of priority. Why didn’t Allah make his religion clear-cut to us so that we do exactly what He tells us to do? I know of some female Islamic scholars like Laleh Bakhtiar, Leila Ahmed and Amina Wadud who are very different in their opinions regarding many Islamic issues. They are also highly educated and against wearing hijab. Now, I am really confused about the image of Islam. Who should I consider to be trustworthy or a reliable scholar?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allah descend on the Prophet Muhammad, his family, his companions, and those who follow them.

Dear Sister,

Assalamu alaikum,

Thank you for your question. I pray you are in good health and iman.

Your questions are hugely important and I’m not sure I can do them justice in a brief response.

I disagree with your contention that Allah Ta’ala has not made this deen clear. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said, “That which is lawful is plain and that which is unlawful is plain and between the two of them are doubtful matters about which not many people know. Thus he who avoids doubtful matters clears himself in regard to his religion and his honor, but he who falls into doubtful matters falls into that which is unlawful, like the shepherd who pastures around a sanctuary, all but grazing therein. Truly every king has a sanctuary, and truly Allah’s sanctuary is His prohibitions. Truly in the body there is a morsel of flesh which, if it be whole, all the body is whole and which, if it be diseased, all of it is diseased. Truly it is the heart.”

One important lesson from this hadith is that one can safeguard her religion by avoiding what is doubtful. Much of popular entertainment falls into this category, while much of it is clearly unlawful. You bring up music and movies.  Most scholars concur that music, in its current form, is unlawful. However, they might also point to alternatives, such as traditional Islamic nasheeds, qasa’id, na’at, and mawlids. Similarly, with movies. I cannot think of too many qualified scholars who would encourage Muslims to watch movies, although there might be some exceptions. The bigger point here is that our scholars are in agreement on the essentials of our faith. But they might disagree on cultural issues and this disagreement can be healthy. Indeed, the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, said that the disagreement of the scholars is a mercy for our community.

Last but not least, you need to be very careful about your exposure to media. The internet has given everyone a platform and not all who speak for Islam are the most qualified. Qualified scholars have a chain of transmission, or isnad, going all the way back to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace. They do not contravene the generational consensus of the knowledgeable men and women of this deen. They are not swayed by pop culture trends. And they direct their students to that which is beneficial.

At the end of the day, which time is better spent? That listening to music and watching movies, or that spent seeking and spreading knowledge which is truly beneficial to ourselves, our families, and our communities?

I highly recommend you look into classes at SeekersGuidance and SunniPath. These classes are taught by highly qualified, God-fearing, balanced men and women. I can say this because I have worked with these people and can vouch for the way they present Islam.

May Allah Ta’ala bless you with beneficial knowledge,

Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq
May 18, 2010/Jumada al-Thani 5, 1431

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Taking Rulings Directly From Imam Muhammad’s Six Books (kutub dhahir al-riwaya)

Answered by Sidi Waseem Hussain

Question: Is it permissible for a non scholar muslim to follow directly a ruling ,issued in one of the six Kutub zâhir al-riwâya, by Imam Abu Hanifa,Imam Abu Yusuf and Imam As Shaybani on an issue they have all three agreed upon and in the meantime doing this without consulting other authorities(such as a living qualified hanafi scholar or a more comprehensive book such as  Ibn Abidin’s Hashiyat)?

Answer: Assalamu Alaykum Warahmatullah,

Islam is a living tradition passed down from generation to generation until the time of the Tabieen, who learned the religion from the Sahaba, who learned it from the Prophet (May Allahs peace and blessings be upon Him).

As such, our knowledge of the religion comes from the hands of scholars and not just from books.

The 6 books of “zahir al-riwaya” (*) are not like other fiqh-texts such as Nur al-Idah, Quduri or others that we can look into for a fiqh-ruling. Therefore it is not advisable for non-scholars to make the 6 books into ones main source of Hanafi-fiqh. Even books like Nur al-Idah or Quduri are not to be accessed without teaching and guidance from living scholars.

As students then, going back to the early books of the Hanafi-madhab like the 6 books to follow the rulings mentioned in them is not something we indulge ourselves in. Rather, we seek to learn our religion at the hands of living scholars who teach us, guide us and help us in understanding the easier books first.

And Allah knows best,
Waseem Hussain

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

(*) The 6 books in question are the books written by Imam Muhammad that consitute the backbone of the Hanafi-madhab and serve as a basis of the later books of the Hanafi-madhab.

How Can a Convert Follow a School of Thought Correctly?

Answered by Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: How likely is it that a convert to Islam could possibly follow a madhab correctly?  When I first became Muslim, I tried to follow the Hanafi school through on-line courses, but I found that I would do things incorrectly for along time without realizing that certain things were important. So, I abandoned the Hanafi mathab because  it seemed impossible, and I met a local man with ijaza to teach Maliki fiqh.  However, he is my only access to information about following the Maliki madhab which concerns me because I can’t verify anything that he tells me and I don’t really know him very well.  What is your recommendation for someone in such a situation?

Answer: As salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh sister,

I pray this finds you in the best of imaan and health.  Firstly, I would like to acknowledge that the life of a convert isn’t always easy in the beginning, with all of the confusion of hearing various opinions and simply trying to figure out how to establish one’s normal practice.  When the frustrations hit a peak, you should step back from it all and look at the bigger picture.

Faith is the Most Important Thing

Alhumdulillah, Allah Most High has guided you, out of billions of people, to Himself.  He lovingly showed you His Deen and gave you the blessing and honor of faith.  Despite real challenges and struggles that we face in our lives, He has given the assurance that they are all temporary, and that the next life with Him is eternal and one of never-ending bliss.  This is a clear sign that He cares for you and He would not simply let you slip between the cracks due to a few details of fiqh.  So don’t feel down if it doesn’t come all at once, or if the things of secondary importance are unclear.  Your priority must be on preserving your mental and physical health, and then on your practice of the Sacred Law.

Islam as a Way of Mercy, Moderation and Ease

When I had just become a Muslim, I too missed many witr prayers, simply because I never knew it was necessary to pray them according to the Hanafi school of thought.  Years later when I realized I had to, two reliable scholars I spoke with said that because my missing them was out of an initial ignorance, I could take the position of another school which did not view them as obligatory and so I didn’t have to make them up.  However, once I had the knowledge, that I would be obligated to pray witr along with my other 5 daily prayers.  This is an example of how our scholars show us the mercy and vastness of Islam.  Sometimes, we simply need to give our best intention and effort, and when we reach the limits of our ability and understanding, entrust the rest to Allah, the Most-Merciful.

Madhabs are Meant to Simplify, Not Complicate

The four schools of thought are tried, tested and true interpretations that the Ummah has been following for centuries.  The average person is meant to follow a madhab because its rulings have already been laid out and saves them from having to derive the rulings, without proper qualifications, from the source texts for each and every question.  As such, exactly what you did initially is correct: pick a school of thought within Sunni Islam and ask your questions to its scholars.  Understanding the rulings of one’s madhab does not come overnight; rather it takes time and learning, as well as practice, to get them down.  Sometimes we do things incorrectly because we didn’t understand, but that’s ok.  Our honest mistakes or accidently acting on rulings from other schools are not sins, and as long as the validity of obligatory acts are not in question, once we get a clarification, we can resolve from then on to do things correctly and leave the past in the past.  Considering that there are differences of opinion within the world of Islamic law, if we hear another viewpoint, we should not be frustrated because if there was only one straight answer for everything, there would be no flexibility. The true scholars know when this flexibility can be applied.

Following this Deen is not meant to be difficult or impossible; following a madhab then, is not meant only for Muslims with certain backgrounds to the exclusion of others.  In this vein, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

“Surely, the Deen is ease, and none will be excessive in the Deen except that it will overcome him.  So do the right thing, do the best you can [if you can’t do something completely], and rejoice!…”

(al-Bukhari, al-Saheeh)

Rejoice, because as Muslims, we know that at the end of the day, we still get rewarded, and moreso, we have Allah, the Most Gently Kind.  He looks at our hearts and our intentions, and our works are never meant to earn Paradise.  Rejoicing in Allah and what He has blessed you with is also a means of driving away the waswasa of the Shayton, who if he can’t remove us from Deen entirely, tries to get us to over-worry and become depressed so we leave the path of moderation and optimism and become harmful to ourselves.  Once you feel he is goading you to that stage of harm, simply back off of trying and worrying about being correct and go with whatever is doable at the time.  Seek answers to your specific situations, such as menstruation questions, gradually.  Insha Allah, you will be rewarded for your intentions and in the end, Paradise is promised to all believers.  As a beloved shaykh of ours says, “no one is going to Hell on a technicality”.

How Do I Get Reliable Knowledge?

If you have found a teacher who has traditional authorizations (ijazah) to teach, then there is no need to double-check his teachings if they stem from a school of thought, as Allah Ta’ala tells us to “ask the people of remembrance if you know not” (Quran 16:43), and that ijazah is the way this Ummah has preserved the knowledge of the Deen for centuries from generation to generations.  However, switching madhabs can sometimes cause more confusion, and Alhumdulillah opportunities to ask and learn the Hanafi madhab online are available more than ever before.

Finally, anyone who says there is no more knowledge in these days, has no knowledge themselves.  Find good Muslim company if you can, continue learning at a comfortable pace with reliable institutions such as Seekers Guidance, and after putting your best foot forward without harming your health or peace of mind, trust in the encompassing mercy of your Lord and rejoice!

“Allah intends ease for you; He does not intend hardship on you.” [Quran, 2:185]

Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani