Ruling on Following Schools of Fiqh

From alJumuah magazine, Vol 9 , Issue 1 [Muharram 1418 H]

Question: Is a Muslim in America required to follow one of the four known Fiqh schools and stay with it? If the answer is no, then, what are the conditions that one should keep in mind when seeking Fatwa?

Answer by Dr. Salah As-Sawi,
Head of the American Open University, Virginia, USA

Most of the scholars hold the opinion that it is not required of the Muslim to follow a certain Fiqh School because nothing can be made required of Muslims except that made by Allah and His Prophet. And Allah subhaanahu wa ta`ala and His Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam did not make it a requirement of any Muslim to follow any Imam's or Mujtahid's School or Madh-hab such that he makes Taqleed of the Imam in all of his opinions. Such strict following is deserved to the Prophet sallallahu `alayhi wasallam alone. Everyone else may or may not be followed.

When in need of Fatwa, Muslims should consult with any scholar regardless of his Madh-hab. A common Muslim is said to have no Madh-hab. A common Muslim's Madh-hab is, indeed, the Madh-hab of the person giving him the Fatwa. He has, however, to ask those scholars who are known to have Ilm (knowledge) and possess Adl (good and just character). Allah subhaanahu wa ta`ala said: "Ask the people of dhikr if you do not know." [16:43]

Seeking Fatwa from a Jahil (one who does not have the knowledge) is not permitted by Naql (by Quran and Sunnah) and Aql (by logic and reason) and from Fasiq (one having bad character) cannot be dependable even if he is a Mujtahid. Mohamed ibn Sireen said: "This `ilm is Deen (this knowledge is religion), therefore, be aware of whom you take your Deen from." If one gets more than one opinion, he should choose that of the most trusted scholar or should seek assistance of others who can help him choose the right answer. It is recommended, in such case, that one chooses the more conservative of the answers for it is the safest way out of this differing in opinions.