There are strong positions in all four madhhabs on the obligation to restrict oneself to a single madhhab. Major scholars from the fifth century of Hijrah quoted consensus on this ruling. The reasons for the ruling have been explained in detail above, and will be summarised below. The scholars who in the present time strictly uphold this view are, therefore, completely justified in doing so.
There were certainly a number of latter-day scholars that tended towards the view of unrestricted taqlīd. The primary reason for this is that some influential scholars supported this opinion after the earlier consensus in opposition to it. Examples include al-Nawawī, al-Qarāfī, Ibn al-Humām and Ibn Taymiyyah. However, as mentioned earlier in the brief discussion on tatabbu‘ al-rukhas, the personal opinions of later scholars cannot supersede an earlier consensus, nor can they form the basis of the official position of the respective schools when the situation under question has remained unchanged.
Moreover, the scholars who give permission for unrestricted taqlīd generally accept the consensus on the prohibitions of tatabbu‘ al-rukhas, following desires and talfīq. Since it is almost impossible to keep the common people from falling into these patterns, the scholars of the present time who support this view should, based on the principle of closing the avenues to impermissible ends (sadd al-dharā’i‘), put effective measures to avoid these unwanted outcomes. This can only be achieved by limiting them to choose the opinions of a single madhhab.
Summary of Main Points
Before the codification of the madhhabs, in approximately the first three centuries of Islām, the common Muslim was permitted to accept the opinions of multiple mujtahids.
The reason for this is that the common Muslim did not have access to a complete codified set of laws from any single person or school at this time, so it was not generally possible to follow a single mujtahid or school.
Because different madhhabs with detailed rules on all chapters of jurisprudence were not yet codified or well-known, an opinion the common Muslim was exposed to was probably the only opinion on that issue he would know. Hence, he would rarely have the option to select between different viewpoints on single issues, making it nearly impossible for him to seek out the easiest opinions from amongst the available views of mujtahid scholars and follow his desires.
After the codification of the madhhabs in approximately the fourth century of Hijrah, it became necessary for a common Muslim to restrict himself to a single madhhab which he believes to be more correct in relation to the other madhhabs
The reasons for this is that:
o Firstly, each madhhab was comprehensive and complete, dealing with all the subsidiaries of Islāmic law, so unlike the early period, there was no need to refer to multiple mujtahids or madhhabs
o Secondly, if given the option to select from the different madhhabs in single issues, the common Muslim would be freed of religious obligation (taklīf) and will be free to base his decisions on his whims and desires, by seeking out the easiest opinion from each school.
o Thirdly, if a layperson follows multiple madhhabs in different rulings, the consequence will be a hotchpotch of legal rulings, many of which are based on conflicting juristic principles, resulting in a methodological contradiction in the outcome, even if not obviously apparent
o Fourthly, a muqallid’s reasoning is limited to investigating which madhhab or mujtahid he feels is superior, and he does not have the right or ability to adjudicate between them on individual issues; thus, if he were to choose from different madhhabs without necessity, it would be based on following desires, even if the muqallid does not realise it or believe so
o Fifthly, given this option, a muqallid may be led to select opinions outside of the established madhhabs that are shadhdh
o Sixthly, a muqallid may not be able to observe the conditions of the different madhhabs he is following in a single case, resulting in talfīq
Major early scholars across all madhhabs before the sixth century of Hijrah have corroborated each of these points, with Qādī ‘Iyād and al-Ghazālī having quoted consensus on the obligation of adhering to a single madhhab
The opinion of some later scholars in contravention to this, when the situation has remained the same since the consensus of the early scholars, is rejected
Since there is no need to follow multiple madhhabs in this period, and there is a potential for major repercussions – prohibited by consensus – if it is permitted, it behooves all scholars to give the verdict of the obligation of restricting one’s taqlīd to a single madhhab, on the basis of prudence and practicality, and closing the avenues to unwanted ends
When some early scholars spoke of a layperson “having choice” (which was stated even by some of those scholars who obligated restricted taqlīd) or “having no madhhab”, they refer to the times and scenarios where these are applicable, such as:
o If a muqallid has not yet selected a madhhab, or is in such a position that he does not have full access to any single madhhab, he may take fatwa from a scholar of any madhhab
o A muqallid of a particular madhhab in some situations has the choice of accepting different fatwa positions within his school
o The layperson in the era before the codification of madhhabs had no madhhab for the reasons outlined earlier
سبحنك اللهم وبحمدك، أشهد أن لا إله إلا أنت، أستغفرك وأتوب إليك
‘Allāmah Anwar Shāh Kashmīrī (1292 – 1352 H) said in Fayd al-Bārī:
“It has not escaped you that Ibn Nujaym in Qadā’ al-Fawā’it and Ibn ‘Ābidin in the introduction to Radd al-Muhtār gave allowance to a dangerous slip, since they allowed an uneducated person who does not know the madhhab of anyone to ask regarding his five Salāhs from whichever scholar from the scholars of the four madhhabs he wishes, and act on whatever he wishes from their fatwas.
“This is rejected (bātil), because its consequence is that the uneducated person has no madhhab. Analogy with the matter of iqtidā’ (following an imām in Salāh) is invalid, as there is no alternative to following in iqtidā’, as distinguished from acting on the madhhabs, because it is possible for him to restrict himself to a madhhab and follow it in [all] its rulings. As for practising the madhhab of al-Shāfi‘ī (Allāh have mercy on him) in one Salāh and the madhhab of the Hanafīs in another Salāh, this is an improper way, and leads to contradiction, and has no precedent in the religion.
“Its explanation is that the rulings of one madhhab are matching with each other. I mean that there is a sequence and connection between them in the mind of the mujtahid. Thus, if these rulings are mixed-up, so at one time one acts on this and at another time on this, it will lead to contradiction, even if it does not appear to the apparent mind, because they may be built on different principles which contradict one another. So if he acts on all those rulings, he will be entangled in a contradiction without realising it, because even if those rulings are not self-contradictory, the principles on which those rulings are based are contradictory, so the contradiction is not visible between those rulings to the apparent mind, although it is verifiable with deeper thought.” (Fayd al-Bārī, 1:45955; also quoted by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Fattāh Abū Ghuddah in Tarājim Sittah min Fuqahā’ al-‘Ālam al-Islāmī, Maktab al-Matbū‘āt al-Islāmiyyah, p. 73)