Can Mufti Saheb please explain to me why we have to follow one Mazhab in all the rulings and cannot opt for the strongest proof available to us? What proof is there that we are obliged to follow one Mazhab only for the Mazhabs were not around at the time of the Sahaabah?
Is it not correct that more information is available to us today than it was to the Imaams in the past, who had to travel far and wide?
Taqleed technically means accepting the view of a Mujtahid in issues of Islamic law, without seeking to know the proof thereof, on the belief that his views are backed by legitimate Shar’ee evidence.
A Muqallid is one who ascribes to the Taqleed of a Mujtahid, because he/she lacks the qualifications to perform Ijtihaad himself/herself. Ijtihad is the process of extracting laws from the four basic sources of Shari’ah viz. the Quran, Sunnah, Ijma (consensus of opinion) and Qiyas (analogy based on explicit rulings of the Quran and Sunnah). A Mujtahid is an exceptional scholar who qualifies to employ the tools of Ijtihaad.
Taqleed was prevalent in the time of the Sahabah, Tabi’een, and all the eras afterwards. One example of this is: Imam
Bukhari V narrates from Hadrat ‘Ikrimah V that the people of Madinah asked Hadrat Ibn Abbas I about a woman who, during Hajj, makes her first Tawaaf and then enters her menstrual period before she can make her final Tawaaf. Hadrat Ibn Abbas I told them that she could go home without completing her final Tawaaf. The people of Madinah said, “We will not take your opinion over the opinion of Hadrat Zaid ibn Thabit I.” (Sahih Bukhari no. 1758).[i]
It is clear from this exchange between Ibn Abbas I and the people of Madinah that the people of Madinah made Taqleed of Hadrat Zaid ibn Thabit I only.
It is a historical fact that the codification of Fiqh as a whole did not happen until Imam Abu Hanifah V codified it with a council of exceptional scholars. He was also the first person to compile a book of Ahaadith following the sequence of Fiqh named Kitab al-Āthār. However, this does not mean that Fiqh or Ahaadith did not exist before it was codified in a systematic manner—people who were not Mujtahideen have always referred back to the Mujtahideen to find out a ruling in a certain matter (just like in the above narration).
A person, whether he/she is a Sahabi or not a Sahabi, is either a Mujtahid or a Muqallid. If he/she is a Mujtahid then he/she must follow what he/she believes to be the most correct, based on what is the strongest evidence according to him/her. If he/she is a Muqallid then he/she must follow someone who is a Mujtahid in his rulings. If a non-qualified Muqallid made Ijtihaad and issued a ruling, then although it may be a correct ruling, he/she will still be sinful and if the ruling was wrong then the sin will multiply.[i]
So, what qualifies a person to become a Mujtahid? A person asked Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal V: “If a person memorised 100,000 Ahaadith by heart, will he become a Faqeeh (i.e. a Mujtahid)? Imam Ahmed V said, “No.” So he asked, “What if he memorises 200,000 Ahaadith?” Imam Ahmed V said, “No.” He then asked: “What if he memorises
300,000 Ahaadith?” Imam Ahmed V said, “No.” So he finally asked, “What if he memorises 400,000 Ahaadith?” Imam Ahmed V indicated with his hand that it may be possible (for such a person to be a Mujtahid and give Fatwas to the people
according to his Ijtihaad).[ii]
Note: Knowledge of Ahaadith and all of its sciences (such as Naasikh and Mansookh, Jarah and Ta’deel etc.) is not the only qualification of a Mujtahid. He must also gain the highest level of proficiency in the four sources of Islamic
law (viz. the Quran, Sunnah, Ijma and Qiyas) and its related branches, together with meeting certain spiritual requirements.[i]
Once a person is a Mujtahid, he will have the set of skills and sufficient knowledge to decide what the strongest proof is. Logically, a non-Mujtahid/Muqallid will never be able to do this. Whatever books and knowledge we have today are only the fruits borne of the labours and hard work of our pious predecessors X. There is no new Quran or Hadith. As such, it is very foolish to claim that we have more knowledge than our pious predecessors, the fact that the knowledge has reached us shows that they had knowledge of it already.[i] Imam Abu Hanifah’s V being a junior Tabi’ee (a person who has seen a Sahabi) is an accepted fact. As such, he heard most of the Ahaadith he knew from the senior Tabi’een. The senior Tabi’een X were men of unparalleled excellence and they were absolutely truthful. Imam Abu Hanifah V had many teachers, 4,000 of them were Tabi’een.[ii] As such, there was hardly any need for him to authenticate the Ahaadith that he knew, as opposed to us. Imam Abu Hanifah V knew at least 400,000 Ahaadith by heart,[iii] we do not have knowledge of anyone in this era who can even claim to know this amount of Ahaadith.[iv]
Once a person becomes a Muqallid of one Madhab, he/she must follow that Madhab in all of its rulings, otherwise, there can be many problems that may come about. `Allamah Yusuf Ludhyanwi V explains this point as follows:
“And the person who has not attained the degree of Ijtihad remains a layman no matter how many books he may have read, and he has no alternative but to refer to the view of a Mujtahid.
Hence, if he follows the practices and rulings of one stipulated Imam, he is absolved of his Shar’ee responsibility. However, if he picks and chooses from the rulings of any Imam, without subscribing to the view of any one Imam in particular, then the question is: “What is his basis of preference between the rulings of the various Imams?” If the answer is that the Quran and Hadith are his yardstick, and he gives preference to those rulings which, according to his understanding, conform to the Quran and Hadith, then in reality, he has made his own understanding (of the Quran and Hadith) his basis and yardstick. We then say: If he truly is an expert in the Quran and Hadith, and his understanding thereof is evidential, then he is not required to make Taqleed, but he is in reality a Mujtahid. And if he is not an expert in the Quran and Hadith, and yet he places his trust on his own intellect and understanding, then he is prey to self-conceit, which is destructive for his Deen.” (Ikhtilaaf Ummat wa Siratul Mustaqeem page 28)
Moulana Ashraf `Ali Thanwi V says: “…when this has reached the level of egotism within the people, then if they are not going to be restricted by a single Madhhab, their practices will only be based on self-interest. The outcome will then be like that of a man who bled after having performed Wudhoo. According to the Hanafi Madhab, his Wudhoo is nullified, and according to the Shafi’ee Madhhab, it remains intact. Therefore, he decides to follow the Madhhab of Imam Shaf’ee V. Thereafter, he touches his wife, and touching one’s wife nullifies Wudhoo according to the Shafi’ee Madhhab, and not according to the Hanafi Madhhab. Here he decides to follow the Madhhab of Imam Abu Hanifah V.
In this instance no Imam regards his Wudhoo acceptable, neither Imam Abu Hanifah V, because blood flowed from his body, nor Imam Shafi’ee V, due to him having touched his wife…. Hence, there is no Deen at all; but such a man remains a worshiper of his own interests.” (Ashraful Jawaab page 160)
This is merely a synopsis of the matter. Many renowned scholars around the world have already written detailed books on this topic. Please refer to ‘The legal status of following a Madhab’ by Mufti Taqi Uthmani,[i] ‘Who are the blind followers’ by Moulana Ayub bin Muhammad,[ii] ‘Why should we follow an Imam’ by Madrasah Ta’leemud Deen,[iii] ‘Influence of Hadith Upon Differences of Opinion Amongst Jurist’ by Shaykh Awwamah,[iv] and ‘Understanding Taqleed’ by Mufti Muhammad Sajaad.[v]
 حدثنا أبو النعمان، حدثنا حماد، عن أيوب، عن عكرمة، أن أهل المدينة سألوا ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما، عن امرأة طافت ثم حاضت، قال لهم: تنفر، قالوا: لا نأخذ بقولك وندع قول زيد قال: إذا قدمتم المدينة فسلوا، فقدموا المدينة، فسألوا، فكان فيمن سألوا أم سليم، فذكرت حديث صفية رواه خالد، وقتادة، عن عكرمة. (صحيح البخاري، الرقم:1758)
 وقد روى البخاري، ومسلم، وأبو داود عن عمرو بن العاص، عن النبي ﷺ قال: “إذا حكم الحاكم فاجتهد ثم أصاب: فله أجران، وإذا حكم فاجتهد ثم أخطأ فله أجر.”
قال الخطابي رحمه الله في (معالم السنن) – المطبوع مع السن، الموضع المذكور -: إنما يؤجر المخطئ على اجتهاده في طلب الحق، لأن اجتهاده عبادة..، وهذا فيمن كان من المجتهدين جامعة لآلة الاجتهاد، عارفا بالأصول وبوجوه القياس، فأما من لم يكن محلا للاجتهاد فهو متكلف، ولا يعذر بالخطأ في الحكم، بل يخاف عليه أعظم الوزر، بدلیل حديث ابن بريدة، عن أبيه، عن النبي ﷺ قال: “القضاة ثلاثة، واحد في الجنة، واثنان في النار، أما الذي في الجنة: فرجل عرف الحق فقضى به ورجل عرف الحق فجار في الحكم فهو في النار، ورجل قضی للناس على جهل فهو في النار”.
وسبقه إلى هذا القول والاستدلال بهذا الحديث الإمام ابن المنذر، کما يظهر من كلامه الذي نقله الحافظ في الفتح.
وقال الحافظ قبله: لو أقدم فحكم أو أفتى بغير علم لحقه الإثم.
وقال الإمام النووي رحمه الله في شرح مسلم – الموضع المذكور –قال العلماء: أجمع المسلمون على أن هذا الحديث في حاکم عالم أهل للحكم، فإن أصاب فله أجران: أجر باجتهاده، وأجر بإصابته، وإن أخطأ فله أجر باجتهاده، وفي الحديث محذوف تقديره: إذا أراد الحاكم فاجتهد. قالوا: وأما من ليس بأهل للحكم فلا يحل له الحكم، فإن حکم فلا أجر له، بل هو آثم، ولا ينفذ حكمه، سواء وافق الحق أم لا، لأن إصابته اتفاقية، ليست صادرة عن أصل شرعي، فهو عاصي في جميع أحكامه سواء وافق الصواب أم لا، وهي مردودة كلها، ولا يعذر في شيء من ذلك، وقد جاء في الحديث في السنن: القضاة ثلاثة…
وقال الشيخ ابن تيمية رحمه الله تعالى في رسالته التي اشتهرت باسم المقدمة في أصول التفسير، وتبطنها تلميذه الحافظ ابن كثير في مقدمة تفسيره، قالا: من حكم بين الناس عن جهل فهو في النار وإن وافق حكمه الصواب في نفس الأمر، لكن يكون أخف جرما ممن أخطأ. والله أعلم. (أدب الإختلاف ص62-63 دار المنهاج)
The Prophet ﷺ said: Judges are of three types, one of whom will go to Paradise and two to Hell. The one who will go to Paradise is a man who knows what is right and gives judgment accordingly; but a man who knows what is right and acts tyrannically in his judgment will go to Hell; and a man who gives judgment for people when he is ignorant will go to Hell. (Sunan Abu Dawud no. 3573)
 المسودة ص516، وإعلام الموقعين 1:45
 Imam Shafi’ee V stated: “It is not permissible for anyone to pass a ruling (by means of his own reasoning) in Allah’s Deen, except a person who is well-versed in the book of Allah. This entails being aware of its Nasikh (abrogating) and Mansookh (abrogated) verses, its Muhkam (clear/strengthened) and Mutashabih (obscure) verses, its Ta’weel (figurative verses) and Tanzil (the condition or time of revelation, or the order of revelation of various verses), Makki and Madani verses (i.e. those verses revealed before and after emigration respectively); the detailed purport of the verses, and the background circumstances regarding their revelation. Similarly, he should be well-versed in the Hadith of Rasulullah, its Nasikh (abrogating) and Mansukh (abrogated) ones; and he should be equally knowledgeable about the Hadith of Rasulullah as he is with the Quran.
Thereafter he should be well versed in the various sciences of the Arabic language, Arabic poetry and all the various sciences that are required for the study of Islamic knowledge and the Quran. At the same time, he should be equipped with impartiality and justice coupled with constrained speech. He should also be acquainted with the differences of the Fuqaha. Last but not least, he should be talented (in the art of extracting rulings from the sources of Shari’ah). After having fulfilled all the above requirements, then only may he voice his opinions and pass rulings in matters of permissibility or prohibition. If not, then he has no right to voice his opinions in religious knowledge, and he is not permitted to pass any ruling.” (Jami’ul Bayan ‘Ilm wa Fadhlihi vol.2 page 856)
 إن الأيمة الذين كانوا قبل جمع هذه الدواوين كانوا أعلم بالسنة من المتأخرين بكثير، لأن كثيرا مما بلغهم وصح عندهم قد لا يبلغنا إلا عن مجهول، أو بإسناد منقطع، أو لايبلغنا بالكلية (رفع الملام ص 18)
 الخيرات الحسان ص69
 مناقب الإمام أبي حنيفة للكردري ص169
 Recently, Shaykh Latif al-Rahman al-Bahraichi al-Qasmi has published a 20-volume encyclopedia of the Ahaadith transmitted by Imam Abu Hanifa V which are in various Musnad compilations, other works and manuscripts. The number of the Ahaadith in the Kitab is 10,588. The Kitab is named: الموسوعة الحديثية لمرويات ابي حنيفة.