The Four Schools of Jurisprudence
Fatwa No: 82778

Question

I've been told by some trustworthy brothers (schools of Fiqh) that some Sunni scholars regard Madhahib as Bid'a (innovation), and since these Madhhab did not exist during the time of the prophet (Peace and blessing be upon him), nor during the time of the rightly guided four Caliphs are they Bid'a (innovation)? What is the status of "Madhab" in Islam? What is the Islamic rule of some one who call himself Maliki, Hanbali, Shaafi' or Hanafi and is very fanatical about his Madhhab and refuse to adhere to the authentic proof of Sunnah of Rasoolu Allah Salla Allahu Alaihi Wa Sallama when this Sunnah opposes the Madhhab's opinion? Would it be Islamicly right to abolish these Madhahib and unify the Muslim Ummah of Ahlu al Sunnah Wal' Jamma'a.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

The four Schools of jurisprudence are the result of the Ijtihaad (a juristic opinion on matters which are not specified in the Quran or the Sunnah) of Imams Abu Haneefah, Maalik, Ash-Shaafi’i and Ahmad  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  them.

These Imams are among the most eminent and knowledgeable scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah Wal Jamaa'ah. They are a continuation of the Ijtihaad of the Companions of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) in religious knowledge and in teaching it.

Indeed, there were among the Companions of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) eminent scholars who made Ijtihaad and they differed in opinion over several issues according to their different understanding of the texts just as it happened later between Imaams Abu Haneefah, Maalik, Ash-Shaafi’i and Ahmad  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  them.

However, the four mentioned scholars did not oblige other people to follow them in every single matter. Rather, they stated their view and the opinion they consider to be the preponderant one but they called the Muslims to abide by the truth wherever they found it even if it does not conform to their [Imams’] opinion. Indeed, one of them said: “If you find a sound Hadeeth, then that is my Madhhab [my methodology, opinion] (even if I have said something else).” Another one of them said: “If you find a saying of the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) contradicting my opinion, then throw my opinion against the wall (and act according to the Prophet's saying)'.

There were many other eminent scholars during the time of these four Imams who were not less knowledgeable than them such as Al-Layth, Al-Awzaa’i, Sufyaan and others. But Allah, the Almighty, made the knowledge of these four Imams spread and remain, as Allah prepared the existence of students who recorded their opinions and spread them.

Therefore, the student of religious knowledge should not return away from what these Imams and other eminent Muslim scholars wrote, as this is the correct way of knowing the Islamic jurisprudence. On the contrary, a student of knowledge should learn what has been recorded by the scholars of one of the Schools of jurisprudence [Madhhab] and act according to it. However, he should not be an extremist or fanatic to a given Madhhab and should know that he is not obliged to follow the Madhhab in all matters. In fact, it is not compulsory on us to follow anybody except the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ).

To conclude, we say that suggesting giving up these Madhaahib (Schools of jurisprudence) and throwing them away is a big mistake and so is being fanatic to one Madhhab or the other or preferring an opinion of a Madhhab over a clear and sound text.

The correct procedure is to take these Madhahib as a means of knowledge, and the student of knowledge should take what is more sound according to its evidence even if it contradicts the view of the Madhhab that he is studying [or following].

Allah knows best.

Related Fatwa