Recently someone raised the issue of the evidences for the common person making taqlid (following qualified scholarship) of a Madhab (school of law). This query is still a common question asked by many educated people who take an interest in their religion, whilst also feeling uneasy with the concept of adhering to one Madhab.
I hope to present a couple of posts on this topic from a work on the issue by Shaykh Abd al-Fattah al-Yafi’i, the post below mentioning the reasoning for adherence to one Madhab cited by some scholars, and the next (Allah willing) briefly mentioning the classical legal authorities who endorsed this view. And success is from Allah (Most High) alone.
Preventing Legal Anarchy And Fatwa Shopping
The scholars who forbid a person from leaving their Madhab, and insist on the common person to adhere to only one generally cite the reason of: Closing the means to legal anarchy by a person moving from one madhab to another, and taking the easiest position from each Madhab.
Imam al-Nawawi said in the introduction of al-Majmu (1/93):
“Second: It is incumbent on him-to adhere to a Madhab- and it applies to all those from the jurists and scholars of all the sciences who do not reach the rank of ijtihad. The reason for it is that if it was permissible to follow any Madhab he pleases it would lead to seeking out dispensations of the Madhab’s by following his desires. Thus he would choose between the lawful and prohibited, obligation and permissibility, and that would lead to the freeing of the leash of legal responsibility.”
Al-Kayranawi said in Fawaid fi Ulum al-Fiqh p.25:
“That which this person says, [namely] that they (the Imam’s of Madhabs) did not have a single follower (muqallid) who would follow them in all that they said. The answer to it is: If there was not a specific follower, did they have a hadith scholar who would lay down for them the principles of hadith criticism. Authenticating some of them and weakening some of them, and people relying upon his authenticating, weakening, declaring [narrators] trustworthy and declaring them weak?
If you say: At that time there was no need for the science of [hadith] criticism due to the predominance of truthfulness and uprightness amongst people
We say: Likewise there was no need at that time for the following of a specific [Madhab] due to the predominance of truthfulness and uprightness. Rather this was not possible due to the absence of the codification of the schools and their being dispersed. If a person at that time had adhered to the following of a specific [Imam] the matter would have been difficult for him and would have been placed in severe difficulty, as opposed to our time. Therefore how can our time be compared with their time, and our situation with their situaton?
Then when the permissibility of taqlid is established, then [the taqlid] of 1 or 100 is the same, why is it that you permit the taqlid of 100 but do not permit the taqlid of 1?
If you say: Why is it that you permit the taqlid of 1 but do not permit the taqlid of 100 even though the the taqlid of the second was present at the time of the early Muslims?
We say: You have admitted that rulings change with the change of time and conditions. Likewise you have admitted that the ‘blocking of the means’ to the unlawful is obligatory, and it is not hidden to you that to open this door for people [of not having to follow one madhab] in these times in which ignorance, evil and following of desires is prevalent amongst its people will open for them doors of following dispensations and following desires and misguidance.
I have narrated from Ibn al-Mubarak that he said: al-Mutamar informed me saying: My father saw me reciting poetry, he said: My son do not recite poetry. I said: O father, al-Hasan would recite poetry and Ibn Sirin would recite poetry. He replied: My son, if you took the ‘evil’ of what is in al-Hasan, and ‘evil’ of that which is in Ibn Sirin all evil would be gathered in you. Sulayman al-Taymi said: If you took the dispensation of each scholar you would gather in you all evil.
This is the reason for our forbidding of taqlid of anyone he wishes. We do not say it is totally impermissible such that someone may cite the practice of the early Muslims as a proof against us. When the taqlid of the Imams is such then what do you think of the permission to leave taqlid totally and act upon that which he views, or make taqlid of whom he wishes in that which he wishes. Understand this and do not be from the arrogant quarrelsome ones.”
Al-Kayrawani also said on p.84 of the same work, under the subheading of ‘The secret of the impermissibility of leaving a Madhab for another Madhab’:
“And by the view of the jurists (fuqaha) it becomes clear, [namely] the impermissibility of leaving a Madhab for another Madhab because if this was due to finding a mistake with the Madhab he left-then he is not qualified to do this.
If this was due to preferring (tarjih) then he is also not qualified to do this, thus there is no reason for moving except desire or an invalid consideration. Thus it is impermissible not least because this action will open for him the door of following desires.
If you say: If he is not from the people of preference (tarjih) then how can he choose a Mujtahid to make taqlid of and not another?
I say: The preference of a Mujtahid does not require a specific proof rather the leaning of the heart whom he chooses for Taqlid is sufficient, along with good opinion of him. As opposed to preferring an issue over another which is based on an evidence and he is not from the people of deducing [from evidences].
Also a basis for the preference of a Mujtahid over another is due the first Madhab being widespread in his land, and ease of referring to the scholars and books of his Madhab as opposed to another. And from this you see the Madhab of al-Shafi widespread in Egypt and Hijaz, the Madhab of Malik in al-Maghrib, the Madhab of Abu Hanifah in Persia, al-Rum, India and Sind and other places due to the large amount of scholars of these Madhahib in these lands.”