Why is there a difference in the fiqh of Islam such that people follow only their fiqh and don’t accept the fiqh of others like Hanafi, Shafi'i, Maliki, so on and so forth?
Well, actually I wrote a book on that called 'the evolution of fiqh' which explains where the Madhabs came from, how they evolved, what should our position be with regards to the Madhabs. It’s a subject which one needs to read into it to understand.
But to put it simple, if you want to understand where should we stand with regards to Madhabs, I would say that Abu Hanifa was not a Hanafi, Imam Malik was not a Maliki, Imam As-Shafi'i was not a Shafi'i and Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal was not a Hanbali. That is reality.
Most people don’t understand that. They think that Abu Hanifa was a Hanafi, so they are following Abu Hanifa, they are Hanafis because they are following Abu Hanifa who was a Hanafi, but it is not true. Abu Hanifa was not a Hanafi. So if we want to follow Abu Hanifa, then we need to know what was the actual Madhab of Abu Hanifa.
So if he wasn’t a Hanafi, what was he? What was his Madhab? It was the Madhab of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). That was his Madhab. He followed the Madhab of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). The same Madhab which Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, the big Sahabas (رضى الله عنهم), everybody followed of the early generations. Same Madhab, one Madhab. And that’s why Abu Hanifa said : "If the Hadith is correct, meaning, if what has been narrated from Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) is an accurate narration, then that is my Madhab." So what is he saying? He is saying his Madhab was that of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ).
So that is the proper position that a Muslim should understand and follow. It doesn’t mean that if your teacher, the scholar in your area who you have to turn to, he studied fiqh in the Madhab of the Hanafi Madhab, if this is the fiqh that he studied, can we rely on him? Yes we can. If he is the most knowledgeable, this is the one you take your knowledge from. You don’t have the knowledge to go into the Qur'an and the Sunnah to extract the rulings and all these. You don’t have that knowledge. You don’t have the equipment to do that. So therefore as Allah said:
"So ask the people of the message if you do not know.”
So regardless of what his Madhab maybe, you follow him. You ask for the rulings, you ask for the evidence best as you can, you try to follow it according to the evidence.
Some people say, well okay, if you do that, then you move somewhere else and in this other place now, the leading scholar there, he is from an another Madhab. So now when you ask to do certain things, he tell you something else. What do you do then? So do you just stick with what you learned first ? This new teacher whom you are learning from, he brings the evidence for why takes his position, the evidence makes sense to you, you follow him.
But you might say "you just changed". What did Imam Shafi'i do? Imam Shafi'i studied under Imam Malik for some 20 years, then he went to Yemen, absorbed knowledge from there. Then he went to Baghdad, studied under Abu Yusuf, student of Mohammed Ashaibani - student of Abu Hanifa. And he wrote a book called Al- Hujjah with his fiqh rulings. Then he went to Egypt, studied under the students of Imam Al-laith and changed his rulings and wrote a new book called 'Al-Umm'. So he had rulings after he studied under Imam Malik, he came out of that study with knowledge of Imam Malik and ruled according to what he had learned from Imam Malik. When he absorbed information in Yemen, he changed some of his rulings, when he went to Baghdad, he changed more of his rulings, wrote it up, then went to Egypt and changed his rulings again and wrote up a new book. So if Imam Shafi'i can do it, can we?
Did we have a problem? Did anybody say: O' look at As-Shafi'i, he is changing his opinion all the time". No. It’s not a problem. We go according to the knowledge which is available to us. There is no problem to change ones position. You thought it was this way where you grew up, they taught you that when you have to make Wudhu, the time comes to wipe your head, you move your cap back and you touch your head, like this three times, that is called Nash. Some people believe that, some people are doing that. So then you find out later that, no it’s not that, it’s to wipe your whole head from back to front, front to back, that is Nash. Change it, no problem. You shouldn’t have a problem with that. You learned that the other one was not correct. Sometimes it may be a question of you can do it that way, you can also do it this way. Sometimes it is a question of right and wrong.
 [Qur’an 16:43]< Back to Questions