Ruling on adhering to the Four Schools of Jurisprudence

Q: What is the ruling on abiding by the four Madh-habs (Schools of Jurisprudence), and following their views in all cases at all times?

A: Praise be to Allah Alone, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger, his family, and companions. To commence: Firstly: The four Madh-habs are attributed to the four Imams: Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik, Imam Al-Shafi`y and Imam Ahmad. The Hanafy Madh-hab for instance, is attributed to Abu Hanifah and the same goes for the rest of the Madh-habs. Secondly: These Imams have inferred Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) from the Qur'an and the Sunnah, and they were Mujtahids (Mujtahid is a scholar that is qualified to exercise juristic effort to infer expert legal rulings) in this regard. When a Mujtahid is right in his inference, he is rewarded twice; the first for his trial to infer the legal ruling and the second for his correct inference. On the other hand, when a Mujtahid is wrong in his inference, he is rewarded only once for his trial to infer the legal ruling and he will be excused for his mistakes. Thirdly: Those who are capable of inferring rulings from the Qur'an and Sunnah, like the early scholars, should do this, but they are not permitted to follow what they believe is not right, rather what they believe is right. They are also permitted to follow someone else in case they can not infer a certain ruling and when there is a need to do this. Fourth: Those who do not have the ability to infer are permitted to follow whom they (Part No. 5; Page No. 29) feel assured to follow. In case they do not feel so, they should ask till they become convinced. Fifth: According to what has been mentioned above, it is clear that not all (Madh-habs) opinions are to be followed in all cases at all times, for they might have mistakes. Right opinions and inferences that are based on established evidence are the ones to be followed without doubt.May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.