The Beloved Messenger of Allah said, “Allah will never allow my Ummah to unite upon misguidance and incorrect beliefs. Allah’s mercy, blessings and protection are with the largest group of Muslims. And he who deviates from the largest group of Muslims will be thrown into Hell.” [Tirmidhi]
This article is an effort to clear doubts and misconceptions about the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat; the largest group of Muslims and the righteous sect of Islam, since the time of the Beloved Prophet.
A Muslim must follow one of the four Madhabs, or Islamic schools of Fiqh/jurisprudence, which are:
1. Hanafi – led by the teachings of Imam Abu Hanifa;
2. Shafi – led by the teachings of Imam al-Shafi;
3. Maliki – led by Imam Malik’s teachings;
4. and Hanbali – led by the teachings of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal
There are no correct Madhabs other than these four. In regards to aqaa’id (or belief), the four Madhabs do not differ in their teachings; rather the differences in teaching are in regards to Fiqh issues e.g. the method of Salah, Wudhu etc.
None of the Madhabs are considered wrong and they are all correct in their own way; the four Imams were undoubtedly the greatest of Mujtahids i.e. scholars who decide the method of certain actions in accordance with the Shariah.
It is important to note here that, one must choose a Madhab and abide by the rulings of that Madhab only.It is not permissible for a person to mix rulings of different Madhab according to their own preferences. For example, if one chooses to follow the Hanafi Madhab, he/she must follow the teachings of Imam Abu Hanifa in every aspect of Fiqh.
One is only ever allowed to refer to another Madhab if it is extremely difficult or even impossible to perform an action in accordance to one’s own Madhab. In this case, one must ensure that the action is performed properly according to the alternative Madhab’s rulings.
One who does not follow a Madhab has no form of guidance; they will not be able to differentiate between rulings of Islamic Fiqh, or even understand basic Islamic duties i.e. methods of praying Salah.
The scholars advise that a person should remain with one Madhab all their life, unless they change to another for a truly valid reason i.e. religious necessity.
To change Madhab for worldly purposes is considered a dangerous move, as it implies one is taking his religion lightly and there is even a danger that such a person may die without faith. Additionally, changing Madhab requires thorough research and understanding of the conditions of Fiqh. It will also take one much time and effort to fully adapt to the rulings of the new Madhab. For these reasons, it is strongly recommended to stay attached to one Madhab throughout one’s life and to abide by it fully.