Reason behind adhering to the opinions of the Four Madh-habs

Q: What are the reasons for us to hold fast to the sayings and Madh-habs (School of Jurisprudence) of the four Imams (Imams Abu Hanifah, Malik, Al-Shafi`y, and Ahmad)? What is the relation between the Madh-habs and the Messenger (peace be upon him)? Did the Prophet (peace be upon him) know that these Imams will come after him? Will Allah ask the Ummah (nation) on the Day of Judgment about the Four Madh-habs and those who followed them? Should we select and follow one of these Madh-habs? What is the ruling on a person who does not follow one of these Madh-habs?

A: All praise is due to Allah Alone and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger, his family and Companions. To commence: Firstly: the reason behind following the four Madh-habs is that they are based upon the sources of legislation i.e. The Qur'an, Sunnah, (Part No. 5; Page No. 39) Ijma` (consensus), Qiyas (analogy) and other proofs. Secondly: The relation between the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah and the Four Imams is that the Sunnah is one of the sources of legislation they depend upon. Therefore, the Four Imams are followers of the Sunnah of the Messenger (peace be upon him). Thirdly: The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not know that they will come after him because this is from the Ghayb (Unseen) that is for Allah (Exalted be He) Alone. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not know the Ghayb except for what Allah informed him with. Allah (Exalted be He) says: Say: "None in the heavens and the earth knows the Ghaib (Unseen) except Allâh, nor can they perceive when they shall be resurrected." and "(He Alone is) the All-Knower of the Ghaib (Unseen), and He reveals to none His Ghaib (Unseen)." Except to a Messenger (from mankind) whom He has chosen (He informs him of unseen as much as He likes), and then He makes a band of watching guards (angels) to march before him and behind him. Fourthly: A Muslim should learn the affairs of his religion and ask scholars about things that appear ambiguous to him. Allah (Exalted be He) says: So ask the people of the Scripture, if you do not know. Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) will not ask people on the Day of Judgment about the Four Madh-habs or those who followed them. The inquiry will be about following the Shari`ah of Allah and obeying His Messengers. Allah (Exalted be He) says: So, by your Lord (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم), We shall certainly call all of them to account. For all that they used to do. And And (remember) the Day (Allâh) will call to them, and say: "What answer gave you to the Messengers?" Fifthly: The Four Madh-habs are: the Madh-hab of Abu Hanifah, (Part No. 5; Page No. 40) Madh-hab of Malik ibn Anas, Madh-hab of Muhammad ibn Idris Al-Shafi`y and Madh-hab of Ahmad ibn Hanbal (may Allah be pleased with them). Every one of them derived rulings according to his understanding of the Qur'an, the Sunnah, Ijma' (consensus) and Qiyas (analogy). Qiyas happens through comparing one issue to another that has a ruling from Qur'an, Sunnah or Ijma` if these issues are similar with regard to their cause without great discrepancy between them. Moreover, these Imams are Mujtahids (scholars qualified to exercise juristic effort to infer expert legal rulings). If a Mujtahid is right in his Ijtihad, he will receive two rewards; one for his Ijtihad and the other for his being right. But if he makes a mistake in his Ijtihad, he still receives one reward for his Ijtihad. His mistake will be forgiven. What they have derived of rulings should be examined according to the sources of legislation. If the derived rulings depend upon legal proofs, they will be accepted, and if they do not rely on legal proofs, then they will be rejected. Anyone's sayings are liable to be accepted or rejected except for that of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Whoever can derive rulings from their proofs has to do so. But whoever can not do so should ask scholars about whatever appears ambiguous to them. Therefore, one should know that Madh-habs are to be followed only when they rely on legal proofs that were not contradicted by more authentic ones. Therefore, one should not depend upon a certain Madh-hab or work accordingly regardless of the legal proofs it depends upon. A person is not required to follow a certain Madh-hab. If the person is a scholar, then he should follow the evidence. Otherwise, he has to ask scholars.May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.