Fatwa ID: 02494
Answered by: Mufti Muhammad Adnan
I wanted to find out if it’s permissible for someone who habitually has been following one madhab to change madhabs on the grounds of convenience? If so, does he need to specific consent from a particular scholar, or many ‘Ulema? Also if so, I take it he has to learn, and adapt his whole life to the conditions/rulings of the new madhabs he chooses? If it’s not permissible to do this, but decides to go through with it anyway, will ALL his ibadah be rendered invalid i.e.salah /wudhu /Umrah/ fasting etc?
بسم الله الرحمن الرحي
Literally the word madhab is derived from an Arabic word which means “to go” or “to take as a way”. Technically it refers to a particular Imams school of thought such as Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Imam Shafiee and Imam Ahmad.
Madhab is a means by which an individual seeks to follow Allah’s command in regards to a number of interpretive possibilities in deriving the rule of Allah from the primary sources such as the Quran and the Hadith.
An example of this can be seen in the Quran and Sunnah where some commandments appear to be ambiguous and in some cases contradict each other. Allah states in the Quran,“And those women who are divorced should wait for three Quruu.” (Surah Al Baqarah: 228) In this verse the waiting period for a divorcee is stated as three Quruu which in the Arabic language is used for both haydh (monthly menstruation period) and tuhr (the time in between the monthly period). So which one of the meanings would apply in this verse?
Similarly it is reported in a Hadith of Muwatta Imam Muhammad that the Prophet said, “Whoever has an Imam, then the imam’s recitation is his recitation.” While another Hadith which is narrated by Ubada bin As Samit states that the Prophet (sallal laho alaihi wa sallam) said, "Whoever does not recite Al-Fatiha in his prayer, his prayer is invalid." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, 1.723) The above Ahadith seem to contradict one another and it is apparent that to extract the rules from the Quran and Hadith is very complicated and is not for everyone. In these situations the views and opinions of respected scholars who are experts in this field are taken.
The Quran commands, “And ask the people of knowledge if you do not know.” (Surah Al Nahl: 43) In another verse Allah states, “O ye who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those charged with authority among you.” (Surah Al Nisaa: 59) There are other similar verses mentioned in the Quran which instruct and command individuals to resort to the knowledgeable individuals to understand complex interpretations of the Quran and Hadith.
From the above it is clear that an individual is instructed to ask knowledgeable scholars in regards to any religious issues and matters that arise. How is it that this is now restricted to the four schools of thought?
To extract rules from the Quran and Hadith a person is required to be experts in many fields of knowledge. To name a few, the Arabic language, the sciences, the objectives (maqasid) of shariah, the consensus (ijma) and also details (furu), the principle of analogical reasoning (qiyas) and its methodology, the historical, social and political context; that is, the situation of people living around him (ahwal an-nas). It is apparent that scholars of today do not hold the same level of knowledge and more importantly piety of that of our predecessors. Therefore it is necessary to go back to the interpretations and findings of our predecessors.
Originally it can be said that there were more than the four schools of thought however due to them not been systematically documented or organised as the four schools of thought have, these did not flourish and therefore do not exist in a form today that would be practical to follow.
There is no difference between any of the schools of thought regarding the beliefs and doctrine of Islam (aqeeda) as these are clear and defined. However issues such as the rituals of worship, the conditions of business transactions to name a few are not so clear and it is in these situations that differences of opinion of scholars occur.
Even though all the four madhahib are right and an individual may learn and follow any one in order to abide by Shari’ah. An individual who lacks the ability to analyse and distinguish the arguments of each madhhab cannot be allowed to pick and choose between different views only to satisfy his personal desires. The Quran instructs us not to follow our desires, “…Do not follow your desires, least you swerve from justice… (Surah An-Nisaa: 135
That is why the policy of ‘pick and choose’ has been condemned by all the renowned scholars of Shari’ah. Imam Ibn Tamiyyah says:
“Some people follow at one time an imam who holds the marriage invalid, and at another time they follow a jurist 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.” (Contemporary Fatawaa by Mufti Taqi Usmani, P328).
The reason why a person may follow a particular madhab could depend on many factors. It could be that a particular madhab is dominant in the area therefore it is easy for the individual to obtain knowledge and get one’s questions answered more easily. However it should be remembered that a person who follows a particular madhab should remain steadfast on the madhab of his choice and concentrate on acquiring the knowledge of that particular madhab. Although there is no harm in acquiring the knowledge of other madhabs to increase oneself with the knowledge of religion.
Coming to your question, it is important to follow any of the 4 schools of thought in its totality. Even though in theory it is permitted to change, there are background issues and practicalities which should be considered. Does the Madhab you wish to change to have Scholars and learned people whom which you have easy access to? Does it have literature you have easy access to? Sometimes one needs to even consider their culture and environment too. If you have easy access to Scholars and literature and there are no obstacles , then it may be permitted to change Madhab.
Only Allah knows best.
Written by Mufti Muhammad Adnan
Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham