Azizi Khalid

March 5, 2021

Why Madhhab?

I was asked about madhhab and the need to study and follow one.

My answer: Madhhab is here to make our lives easier. The objective of learning fiqh is to enable us to worship Allah. Madhhab simplifies the process. Scholars have over the 1400 years have analysed the sources of law and codified them into books of fiqh using the madhhab as a methodology.

The madhhab of an imam is not necessarily the opinion of the imam. But what the great imams of the madhhab did was to establish a formula to come to a ruling. Any scholar that applies the procedure established by the imam of a madhhab, the ruling will be called the ruling of the madhhab.

Without madhhab, one would need to analyse the Quran and Sunnah to identify the rulings on every single act of worship. For instance, what are the times of prayers, how do we do wudhu’, or even is there a need for wudhu’, then what are the articles of solah so on and so forth. If one were to do every single research on his/her own, he/she would exhaust his/her whole life before he/she would even start performing the first prayer. And since most Muslims today don’t speak Classical Arabic, we would need to spend many years studying the language before we could even deduce laws directly from the text.

Mazhab simplifies this whole process. Pick up a fiqh book, and you’ll be ready to pray in an hour.
But why do I choose to follow a madhhab and not some other great Sheikh today?

As a layman in Islamic law, I am obliged to follow an imam. But once a person has reached the level of mujtahid, a person qualified to deduce law from texts independently; then such a person must not follow an imam.

The beauty of following a madhhab is that we are not relying on the opinions of one scholar. I’ll give an example from the Shafie madhhab. The final opinions in the Shafie madhab are not solely the opinions of al-Imam as-Shafie rahimahullah. The great imam founded his school of thought, and then his students continued his research.

The research and analysis is continued by scholars according to the Shafie school of thought for a few hundred years until the time of al-Imam ar-Rifaie and al-Imam an-Nawawi (about 400 years after Imam Shafie). These two imams gathered the opinions of all Shafie madhhab scholars of the past 400 years and selected the strongest opinions.

About 300 years after Imam Nawawi came two more imams, al-Haitami and ar-Ramli, who gathered all opinions for the 900 years and selected the strongest opinions based on the Quran and Sunnah.
Hence when we follow a madhhab, we are not following the opinion of one man, but almost a thousand years of research by hundreds of thousands of scholars.

While there is nothing wrong if we choose to follow one contemporary scholar, I find solace in knowing that the opinion that I am following has gone through a millennium of research.

Azizi Khalid
Making Islamic education fun at Qaswa House