In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
1- Islam does not oblige a Muslim to follow a certain School of Fiqh. Rather, Muslims are to abide by the Quran and the Sunnah. These are the two authentic, perfect, infallible sources of the Shariah. Whereas every individual judgment is subject to acceptance and rejection.
2- However, it’s not easy for a layman to choose between different Juristic opinions. Who knows not the judgment pertaining to a certain issue should consult a trusted scholar or a knowledgeable person. Then one should abide by the Madhhab of that scholar or person.
Responding to your question about following a certain School of Fiqh, Dr. Rif`at Fawzi, Professor of Shari`ah at Cairo Univ., states:
Following Quran and Sunnah
A Muslim must abide by the Quran and the Prophetic Sunnah. A Muslim should make use of the rulings derived by jurists. Thus applies whether such rulings are derived through independent juristic reasoning (Ijtihad) by means of analogical deduction (Qiyas) and the like.
This means that by relying on analogical deduction, and opinions agreed upon by the consensus of scholars in what they derive from the Quran, the Sunnah and the act of the Companions, a Muslim can adopt any ruling that best suits his own circumstances.
This is not easy. Some Muslims are not qualified enough to study hadiths in order to discern their authenticity and reliability.
In order to be on the safe side, it is better to adhere to a certain school of Fiqh from among the schools that are based on the Quran and Sunnah. While doing so, we should pay attention to the agreements and disagreements that may occur among Muslim jurists regarding secondary matters of the Shariah. I think it is better for lay Muslims to do so.
Following Another School of Fiqh
Nevertheless, even if a Muslim abides by a certain school of Fiqh, he can select aspects from another school that best suit him. In this case, one should be sure that what he borrows from other schools of thought goes in harmony with Islam and is supported by authentic hadiths.
In a bid to avoid absentmindedness, it is better for Muslims, who are not qualified enough not to deduce legal rulings from their original sources on their own but to adhere to one school of Fiqh.
On the other hand, Muslim jurists who are well versed in deducing rulings from their original sources, are permitted to use their own discretion and independent reasoning in deducing rulings on different matters. They also do not need to abide by a certain school of Fiqh.
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.