IBN AL-QAYYIM ON FOLLOWING A SCHOOL OF THOUGHT (MADHHAB)
Ibn al-Qayyim said, "Does the common person have to follow one of the well-known madhhabs or not? There are two sayings regarding this:
That it is not obligatory upon him and this is what is correct and definite since there is nothing obligatory except what Allaah, the Most High, and His Messenger have made obligatory. Neither Allaah nor His Messenger made it obligatory to follow the school of thought (madhhab) of any person from the ummah and to follow him alone in the Religion. The best generations passed by without anyone doing this. Indeed the common person cannot have a madhhab, even if he thinks that he does, since the common person has no madhhab at all. This is because the madhhab will be either for the one who is able to research to a certain level and understand evidence and also know about the other madhhabs or for the one who has read a book concerning the details of that madhhab and knows the ruling and sayings of his Imaam.
As for the one who is unable to do any of that but merely says, ‘I am a Shaafi'ee ...’ or ‘I am Hanbalee ...’ etc., then he does not become that just by saying so, just as would be the case if he said, ‘I am a religious scholar ...’ or ‘I am a scholar of grammar ...’ or ‘I am a writer ...’ then he does not become that just by saying so. This is further clarified by the fact that the one who says, ‘I am a Shaafi'ee ... or a Maalikee ... or a Hanafee ...’ claiming that he follows that Imaam and his way, would only be truthful if he were to follow his way in acquiring knowledge, understanding and extraction of proof. As for this one, with his ignorance and being far from the manners of the Imaam and his knowledge and way, how can it be correct for him to ascribe himself to him except with mere claims and empty words having no meaning?! How can the common person have a madhhab? Even if it could be imagined, it would still not be obligatory upon him or anyone else to ever have to follow the adhhab of a certain man from the ummah, to the extent that he accepts all his sayings and rejects everyone else's sayings.
This is a filthy innovation introduced into the ummah.
No scholar of Islaam has ever said this and they are higher in station and better knowing about Allaah than to order the people about this. Even further from the truth is the saying of those who say that he must stick to the madhhab of a single scholar and further still from the truth is the one who says, he must follow one of the four madhhabs! O Allaah, how strange!
(Is it that) the madhhabs of the Companions of Allaah's Messenger (PBUH) died out and those of the taabi'een and those who came after them and those of the rest of the scholars of Islaam and all have been invalidated except for the madhhabs of four men only from amongst all the rest of the scholars and Imaams?!
Rather, that which Allaah, the Most High, and His Messenger (PBUH) made obligatory upon the Companions, the taabi'een and those who came after them is the same as that which He made obligatory upon those after them until the Day of Resurrection. That which is obligatory does not vary or change, even though how it is achieved may vary or the amount which is obligatory may vary due to varying ability or inability, time, place and condition, but that also follows what Allaah and His Messenger have obligated.
Those who say that it is correct for the common person to have a madhhab claim, ‘Because he believes that the madhhab which he ascribes himself to is the truth, therefore, he must be sincere to his belief.’ If this saying of theirs were true then it would mean that it is forbidden to seek a ruling from anyone other than the people of his own madhhab and likewise that it is forbidden to take the madhhab of anyone equal or greater than his own Imaam and would mean other things which all show the falsity of the belief in the first place. Indeed it would mean that if he saw a text from Allaah's Messenger (PBUH) or a saying from the four Caliphs with other than his own Imaam, he would have to abandon the text and the sayings of the Companions and give precedence to the saying of his own Imaam.
Rather, he should seek from whom he wishes from the followers of the
four madhhabs and others besides them. It is not obligatory upon him or
upon the one who delivers verdicts (muftee) to limit himself to one of
the four Imaams. Upon this is the consensus of the ummah, just as it is
not obligatory upon the scholar to restrict himself to the hadeeths
reported by the people of his land or any land in particular, rather,
if any hadeeth is authentic it is obligatory to act upon it, 38 whether it is reported of the people of the
Hijaaz, Iraaq, Shaam, Egypt or Yemen.” [I’laamul-Muwaqqi'een (4/261)].
38 Aboo Haneefah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said, "When I say something contradicting the Book of Allaah, the Exalted, or what is narrated from the Messenger (r), then ignore my saying," al-Fulaani in Eeqaaz al-Himam (p.50), tracing it to Imaam Muhammad and then saying, "This does not apply to the mujtahid, for he is not bound to their views anyway, but it applies to the blind-following." Imaam Maalik (may Allaah have mercy on him) said, "Truly I am only a mortal. I make mistakes (sometimes) and I am correct (sometimes). Therefore, look into my opinions, all that agrees with the Book and the Sunnah, accept it. And all that does not agree with the Book and the Sunnah, ignore it” Ibn 'Abdul-Barr in Jaami' Bayaanal-Ilm (2/32). Imaam ash-Shaafi'ee (may Allaah have mercy on him) said, "The sunnahs of the Messenger of Allaah (r), reach, as well as escape from, every one of us. So whenever I voice my opinion or formulate a principle, where something contrary to my view exists on the authority of the Messenger of Allaah (r), then the correct view is what the Messenger of Allaah (r) has said-and it is my view," related by Haakim with a continuous chain of narration up to Shaafi'ee, as in Taareekh Dimashq of Ibn 'Asaakir (15/1/3), I’laamul-Muwaqqi'een (2/363,364). And he also said, "The Muslims are unanimously agreed that if a sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah (r) is made clear to someone, it is not permitted for him to leave it for the saying of anyone else." Ibn al-Qayyim (2/361) and Fulaani (p.68). Imaam Ahmad said, "The opinion of Awzaa'ee, the opinion of Maalik, the opinion of Aboo Haneefah-all of it is opinion, and it is all equal in my eyes. However, the proof is in the narrations (from the Prophet (r) and his Companions)," Ibn 'Abdul-Barr in Jaami' Bayaan al’-Ilm (2/149).