Should I Change My School of Thought to Ease the Education of My Son?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: I am a follower of the Hanafi school. My wife is from West Africa and we have just had a child. I am seriously considering studying Maliki fiqh and adopting it myself in order to raise my son as a Maliki. I understand that I could raise my son Hanafi even if my wife isn’t, but three issues keep surfacing: consumption of shellfish, the time for Asr and combining prayers during travel.

My wife expressed that she does not want our child to become confused by differences. What is your advice on this?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

I think you are best suited to decide what school of thought you wish to follow in light of your personal circumstances and general family situation. The main consideration to take into account is whether you will be able to adequately study that specific school and have access to scholars to answer your questions.

Following a School of Thought (madhhab)

I do feel that some of the issues you have raised are not as serious as you may think, such as, for example, the issue of shellfish combining prayers, and the time of Asr prayer.

It is true that in the Hanafi school eating shellfish is prohibitively disliked; that combining prayers is merely “in form” and not through actually performing the prayer outside its time; and that the time of Asr is later than the time determined by other schools. Yet, the question is whether you have to follow these rulings as if they were fixed in stone. The answer to this is no for the following reasons:

a. The obligation of taqlid is to follow a school or an authority on a given issue or set of issues. Thus, for example, an individual is permitted to follow the Hanafi school in prayer and the Maliki school in rulings related to Zakat. This is not interdicted so long as one actually knows the rulings of the other school on the issue and does not systematically seek out dispensations (i.e. the easiest position), which would be problematic.

b. The issues that you mention are all validly disagreed upon within the Sunni schools. Eating of shellfish is allowed by the Shafi`i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools; all three of these schools allow for “actual” combining of prayers; and `Asr prayer is differed upon even within the Hanafi school with Qadi Abu Yusuf and Imam Muhammad holding that it comes in at one-shadow length. There is no blame in following other positions on these limited number of issues when need dictates so, and when you feel it is in the best interest of your family.

[Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar (1:33); Nabulsi, Khulasa al-tahqiq (56)]

In other words, if these are the issues that are proving to be difficult to deal with, or which are incompatible with the “heritage” and practice of your wife, then you can easily just follow another opinion as opposed to switching completely to a different school in all of your practice.

Family Considerations

You also mentioned how you do not want your child growing up confused about the different ways in which people practice their religion. This is something that he or she is bound to come across and recognize at some stage in his or her life. Rather than shielding your child from differences, it may be worth looking into actually teaching him to respect diversity, the great wisdom behind it, and how we understand diversity through our own religious vantage point. This is not only in respect to how we view legal schools and religious practice, but how we view life and all of those around us in general.

See:

Can a Hanafi Follow the Shafi’i Opinion on Joining Prayers When Traveling?

How Do I Choose A School Of Thought (madhhab) & Why?

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani